Physiological studies show a relationship in interactions among physiological processes and the environment. Temperature and water are the two very important abiotic factors that mostly influence the physiological processes of animals. Water balancing physiology of all terrestrial animals and desert animals like camels is widely studied around the globe. The evaporating power of air relies upon temperature and water vapor density. The vapor pressure gradient is minimized by the terrestrial animals to maintain a balance between body and environment by avoiding the condition of desiccation. Terrestrial environment mostly favors small animals because of their small body area-to-volume ratio. Endothermic animals also have a high rate of metabolism as well as water usage. Terrestrial mammals lose water by evaporative cooling, and thus keep their body temperature maintained through the process of panting and sweating. Over the critical limit of temperature, humidity increases and results in the reduction in animalsâ€™ ability to dissipate heat through evaporation. Due to this condition, the body temperature of animals increases at a high rate. Under critical temperature, the humidity gradient between the surface of animals and atmosphere is maintained properly.
Importance of metabolic water:
Terrestrial animals lose water in the following ways:
Evaporation by respiratory and body surfaces
Excretion in urine
Elimination in feces
They compensate this water loss by drinking water and retaining the metabolic water by oxidative metabolism of food substrates in the body. Metabolic water is the amount of water created inside a living body by the process of metabolism like oxidation of food. Few animals such as desert roaches, ticks, mites and mealworms have the capacity to directly absorb atmospheric water vapor. Thus, they maintain the amount of water in their body. However, in other animals like desert rodents, the water amount is maintained only by their regular water uptake.
Ways to Compensate Water Loss:
The major challenge in water conservation by terrestrial mammals is water loss by excretion and evaporation. Excretion is a major issue faced by mammals because it contains most of the body water. Ammonia is released by the breaking down of water, which is a toxic material. Aquatic animals can easily remove this waste from water, as they dwell in water. However, the terrestrial animals have to convert it into less toxic material like uric acid by the process of excretion, so that water loss by the body can be minimized. The urine will be highly concentrated, and thus all excess water will be absorbed by the kidney cells and help the animal to conserve water in the body. Similarly, sweating and evaporation are threats in the survival of the species which live in high temperature environment. The different ways by which this loss can be compensated are as follows:
Use of salt gland: The marine animals and birds have salt glands which excrete excess of salt, and thus they can save the water getting lost during excretion with salt and other ions.
Use of uric acid during embryonic development: Uric acid produced by reptiles and birds is utilized in a crystal form along with food and water during embryonic development. They hatch amniotic eggs which enclose the embryos. It is a great mechanism for saving all the excretory products to utilize them in developmental procedure.
By being nocturnal: Few terrestrial mammals do water conservation by changing their biological clock. They prey and mobilize in nights, so that the atmosphere will be cool and the loss of water can be avoided. During day time, they live inside burrows and are physiologically inactive.
Role of excretory system: Active sodium transport in the outer medullary thick ascending loop of Henle is high in terrestrial mammals, which is an important step in concentrated urine production. The high absorption of sodium in this region results in more water reabsorption phenomenon by ionic gradient.
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