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Desert Diary
Culture/Animal Water


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All desert denizens know the importance of having water available. Dry air and hot sun quickly dehydrate man and beast. Then, how can so many animals thrive in our Chihuahuan Desert? Some travel long distances to water, but many desert animals can make do on the water that is part of most foods. We all know how juicy an orange can be, but even seemingly dry foods often contain appreciable moisture. Conservation is vital, however, so most animals are active only in the cool of night, early morning, or twilight, when the higher humidity steals less moisture. Cool desert nights also may provide a bonanza of dew drops by morning.

Perhaps most surprising, some animals can survive on "metabolic water" alone. As food is burned, our bodies manufacture water as a waste product. To most of us, it's just a sip—but to the kangaroo rat, with its super-conserving kidneys, that sip is enough!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Scott M. Cutler, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Rogers, D. S. 1999. Merriam's Kangaroo Rat / Dipodomys merriami. Pp. 533-534, in The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals (D. E. Wilson and S. Ruff, eds.). Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 750 pp.

Web Resources

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Centennial Museum Chihuahuan Desert Pages.