Animals ability to find water

In summary, animals living in dry areas of Africa have the ability to find water even when it is many kilometers away. This is due to their strong sense of smell, which allows them to detect even small amounts of moisture in the air. Scientific studies have shown that ungulates, such as antelope and zebras, have a larger olfactory organ compared to humans, making them more effective at smelling water. This is also evident in dog breeds, where longer and wider noses are associated with better scenting abilities. However, if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, these animals may not be able to detect water.
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If I'm not wrong, several species of animals, for example those living in dry areas of Africa, have the ability to find water many kilometers away. They may be in a dry area with no water around, and say, the nearest small dwell 20 Kms away in North direction, and somehow they can orientate themselves and walk North until finding the water rather than taking some other random direction which would lead them to dead by dehydration.
Is there any scientific studies / evidence for which mechanisms do they use to achieve that? for relatively nearby water sources I guess that wind might carry some moisture molecules to their nose, but I doubt that this can be the case for distant water sources.
 
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  • #2
They do smell it ... some noses are more sensitive than others. Human noses are about at the bottom of the list.

Here is a nice history of camels: http://nabataea.net/camel.html

But it doesn't explain the biochemistry of the camel's nose!
 
  • #3
Thanks. Are you quite sure of that? so if the wind blows in the wrong direction, they will be unable to find the water?
(incidentally, I wonder if 'smell' is the right word when referring to water?)
 
  • #4
As an old sailor I can assure you that people can smell water too ... there is always something in the air, be it salt or decaying seaweed on the beach.

Of course you are correct: if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction your sense of smell won't be able to detect anything. And all water has stuff in it - you would have to do a research study to determine what it is exactly that the camels smell. But they do go for the water - this selectivity is required for their survival in their native habitats.
 
  • #5
Ungulates (mostly what you think of when thinking "African mammals on the savannah") have a huge relative OOS - (olfactory organ size) - for the size of the skull compared to humans. This is usually offered as an explanation of why most animals "smell" more effectively than humans, and great apes. Our OOS is small.
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/272/1566/957.full

In domestic dog breeds the OSS varies depending on the what we would "nose length". Dog breeds like blood hound and basset hounds have longer noses, larger OOS. Not surprising is the fact the long wide nose breeds of dog do better in the scent ability department. Search and rescue teams prefer these type of dogs, when trailing lost people, for example.

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodhound#Scenting_ability

PS: ungulates == antelope, deer, bison, eland, zebra; so you do not have to look it up.
 

1. How do animals find water in the desert?

Animals in the desert have adapted in various ways to find water. Some, like camels, are able to store large amounts of water in their bodies and can go for long periods of time without drinking. Others have keen senses, such as the ability to smell water from a distance or detect moisture in the air. Some animals, like desert rats, are able to get all the water they need from their food.

2. Can animals sense underground water sources?

Yes, some animals have the ability to sense and locate underground water sources. This is known as "dowsing" or "water witching." Certain species, such as elephants, have been observed using their feet to detect vibrations in the ground, which can lead them to underground water sources.

3. How do migratory animals find water during their journey?

Migratory animals, like birds and wildebeest, have evolved to have excellent navigational abilities. They use a combination of celestial cues, such as the position of the sun and stars, as well as landmarks and their sense of smell, to navigate their way to water sources along their migratory route.

4. Do animals have a built-in mechanism for conserving water?

Yes, many animals have adapted to conserve water in order to survive in arid environments. For example, kangaroo rats have highly concentrated urine and are able to extract water from their food. Some animals also have specialized kidneys that are able to filter out excess salt and retain water.

5. Can animals learn to find water?

Yes, some animals are able to learn and remember the location of water sources. This is especially true for social animals, like elephants and meerkats, who communicate and pass on information about water sources to their group members. Some animals also have the ability to learn from their own experiences and adapt their behavior to find water in different environments.

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