Interesting Ways These 4 Desert Animals Stay Hydrated

Read on for a list of desert animals’ unique ways to stay hydrated.

Aug 31, 2023By Alex Guse
ways desert animals stay hydrated

The desert is notorious for being a place no one ever wants to get stranded. It is hot in the day, freezing at night, sandy, and oh yeah, dry, very dry. Yet even with all of these bleak characteristics of the region, there are still animals that call the desert home. In the list below, we have gathered the top four animals uniquely adapted to the desert and its lack of water. These animals have developed ways to stay hydrated even in the most demanding circumstances.

4. Ostrich

Source: AZ Animals

The ostrich is the largest flightless bird and one of the only avians that live in the desert. They occupy African deserts, namely the Sahara. They are incredible birds, but the way they stay hydrated in such arid conditions lies within their internal organs.

Ostriches have three stomachs and an intestine measuring roughly 45 feet in length when laid out. That is a long time for food and water to stay inside the body. Through evolution, the innards of the ostrich are incredibly long to give the ostrich's body as much time as possible to get as many nutrients as possible out of what they ingest.

Because the ostrich's digestive system is so long, the ostriches can go days without drinking water, and even then, they do not need much as the digestive system sucks every drop of water possible out of the food the bird eats.

When it takes the food or water thirty-six hours to travel from mouth to waste, it means that evolution has created an incredible internal hydration pack inside the ostrich.

3. Kangaroo Rat

Source: PBS

The kangaroo rat is the next character on our list, and like the ostrich, much of its hydration techniques stem from specialized internal organs.

The kangaroo rat has a few ways of staying hydrated in the barrens of the desert. First, it likes to remain underground in the daytime by burrowing in small burrows. This reduces its temperature and exposure to the sun, which in turn makes it require less water.

Second, these small rodents do not actively drink that much water. That is because they can get nearly all the water they need from the seeds and other foods they forage. It even has a cheek storage pouch in which it will store food for days, sometimes weeks!

But as I said, the real magic is inside the kangaroo rat. These animals have a specialized kidney that is extremely good at absorbing all the water they possibly can while producing the least amount of waste possible.

The kangaroo rat not only absorbs most of its water through food, but it also does so with specially formed organs. The rodent is a double threat when it comes to staying hydrated in the desert.

2. Desert Tortoise

Source: The Nature Conservancy

The tortoise is commonly known around the world for its sluggish demeanor, but that isn't always a bad thing, especially when you live in the desert.

The desert tortoise has a multitude of weapons to combat the dry conditions of the desert, and it first starts with its slow nature. By having a slow metabolism, the reptile can consume little food and store it as energy for a long time. The same goes for its water intake.

The shell and tough skin on a tortoise isn't only there to protect it from predators, it also acts as a shield from the sun. The scaley skin and hard shell help with evaporation and loss of moisture, which is essential when surviving in the desert.

The animal's bladder is yet another weapon in its arsenal. It can hold nearly half its body weight in water waste in its bladder. It has also developed the uncanny ability to continue to use that waste to get even more valuable hydration nutrients from what it stores in its bladder.

By drinking excessively and storing it inside its bladder, using its shell and skin as a shield, and moving methodically so as not to overextend its metabolism, the desert tortoise has become one of the most hydrated residents of the desert.

1. Camel

Source: Cleveland Zoo Logic Society

That brings us to number one on our list, and who else would it be besides the camel? A whole line of outdoor hydration gear is named after the animal; of course, it would be number one, but how do they do it?

The primary source of sustainability for the camel is its humps. While some may think they store water in them, they are actually fat reserves that the camel resorts to using when water and food are not readily available.

Much like the kangaroo rat and the ostrich, the camel has developed specialized stomach and intestinal tracks to preserve and get the most out of anything they eat or drink. Like its rodent neighbor, the camel can get vast amounts of water from the food they eat.

Camels are also literally built for desert life. They can lose 30% of their weight in body fluids and still function; that is double what a human can lose before they are threatened with the possibility of death.

When the conditions are mild, camels can go months without drinking water, and that alone is why they are undeniably the best-suited animals to stay hydrated in the desert. Couple this with their myriad of adaptations; the camel is the cream of the crop when it comes to staying well hydrated.

Alex Guse
By Alex Guse

Alex is the proud owner of Chester the puggle (beagle pug mix); his first dog was Zion, an Australian shepherd, which translated into a love for animals at an early age. He has since owned many pets, from dogs to reptiles and everything in between. His true passion for animals comes from being an outdoorsman. He finds that nature is where knowledge and respect for wildlife are paramount!