Humans and animals have always had a rather tempestuous relationship. Everyone has their own belief system about this relationship, mine is pretty simple. I believe that we humanoids are by our mere presence obligated to look after animals. They are pretty magnificent creatures and have every right to enjoy their existence on this Earth. But, then, that’s just me.
Animals have fascinated me since I was the sprog of sprogs. Wild animals especially. Their capabilities have always astounded me, whether it’s an ant that can carry 100x its body weight or how about a hummingbird’s wings that can beat at an astonishing 200 times per second!
So, this led me to wonder – which animals are the heavyweights – hyuk hyuk – when it comes to water storage or the ability to last the longest without water?
As one would imagine, the camel is usually the animal that comes to mind. What is a little surprising though, is that the beautiful giraffe – or ‘jarfie’ as my family calls it – and the teensy kangaroo rat can go as long as the camel, if not longer, without slaking their thirst.
Camels have humps on their back filled with fatty tissue, not water. But one gram of fat is equivalent to one gram of water when metabolised. Storing fat in their humps, instead of having the fat distributed evenly throughout their entire body, allows the camel to keep cool. Otherwise, the overall body fat would act as insulation and cause extreme heat within the camel’s body. The fatty tissue in the hump is a source of energy and water that the camel uses when needed.
They rehydrate faster than any other mammal, able to gulp down 113 litres of water in just 13 minutes.
Giraffes can go longer periods of time without drinking water than a camel. Giraffes get most of their water intake from plant sources. Acacia leaves are the main plant food source for giraffes. They only drink water once every few days. Their bodies do not have resources to store water. However, their plant diet is plentiful and provides a large portion of their water intake
Growing up to 18 feet in height and weighing up to two tons, these gentle vegetarians need to eat around 34 kilograms of leaves and fruit per day.
Due to the high water content in the food they eat, giraffes have the ability to go weeks without drinking water – though when they do, they do it in a big way, guzzling up to 45 litres at a time.
In terms of endurance, kangaroo rats blow everybody else out of the water. Not that they need to be in the water either. Kangaroo rats drink water rarely. They live in arid environments and are able to metabolise water from their food, which consists primarily of seeds.
‘Roo-rats can go without water for so long because their bodies have evolved to conserve it. For example, most species of kangaroo rats have no sweat glands. Kangaroo rats may take their eschewing of water a little bit far, however, when you consider their bathing habits. In what may be the least refreshing bath known to the animal kingdom, kangaroo rats clean themselves by rolling in the dust.