Zoology

Creatures that can Survive without Water



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Water is a necessity of life, so how can some animals withstand lengthy periods of time without drinking any to minimal amounts of water?

Particularly located in areas where water is infrequent, some animals have truly mastered the art of adapting to their scarce-water and arid desert environments by developing a number of phenomenal water conservation abilities. Some of these animals don’t even need to drink any water, but that doesn’t mean they don’t obtain it from elsewhere. The following animals can happily survive long periods of time without drinking water.

Kangaroo rat (Dipodomys)

These creatures can survive without drinking any water whatsoever, and that usually means a period of up to five years – which is their general life span. Kangaroo rats are commonly found in arid to semi-arid desert environments often located in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. And while Death Valley may be deathly for some creatures, it‘s home to these masters of water-conservation rodents.

Since water is necessary for bodily functions and these rodents live in areas where rainfall is minimal and water is scarce, they need to be able to survive without the need to use much water. Some of the ways they do this include living in humid burrows so less water is lost during respiration; developing an oily layer on their fur which works to prevent water loss evaporating through their skin and excreting concentrated urine which also helps conserve their water-reserves. In addition, despite not needing to sip any drop of water, they obtain their necessary amounts through the seeds and food that they eat.

Sand cat (also sand dune cat)

These wild cats look similar to the domestic cat but usually have more pointed ears, and are generally found in sandy desert areas. This cat species is well suited to its habitat in more ways than one. Not only is its thick fur excellent insulation for harshly cold desert nights, and pads of feed protected with long hair from the harsh heat of the desert sands during the day, but this species of cat can survive without needing to drink any water, not even a droplet. In its place, the sand cat, like the Black-footed cat (found in South Africa) takes in the fluid it requires from the prey it devours.

Sand gazelle

Sand gazelles live in a habitat of open sands and can survive long periods without needing water.  They have truly adapted to such a harsh environment such as the Arabian Desert. Interestingly, sand gazelles have the ability to shrink their liver and heart - which in turn causes them to breathe and respire less often, thereby preventing extra moisture loss. Many people often assume the camel to be the epitome example of an animal that can go the longest without water, and while to some extent they can; evolutionary physiologist Joseph Williams from Ohio State University, Columbus says "The ability of the camel to survive the desert environment pales when compared to the sand gazelle." There are other unique ways this antelope of the sands conserves water, such as the way it can re-absorb some of its own urine back into its body.

Moreover, a study conducted by the Saudi Arabian National Wildlife Research Center found not much difference in water loss between a group of gazelles on a restrictive diet and the other well-fed group. The study also showed how gazelles showed the lowest amount of water loss in comparison to other hoofed animals living in arid environments. So the sand gazelle may just be the epitome example of an animal that can go the longest without drinking water.

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More about this author: Matilda Willows

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