Unique Australian Hedgehog Blows Bubble to Survive Heat
Seeking Cooler Temperatures: Australian Echidnas Blow Bubbles with their Noses to Beat the Heat
Australian echidnas, an oviparous mammal with a beak-like snout and covered in spikes, have developed a peculiar way to cool off in the heat: blowing bubbles with their noses. This unique process was discovered by researchers at Curtin University, who used thermal vision devices to study these animals’ thermal biology.
Led by Dr Christine Cooper, from the university’s School of Molecular Biology and Natural Sciences, the research focused on the methods of these small creatures – approximately 40 centimeters in length and weighing around 5 kg – to adapt to high temperatures. As the echidnas cannot pant, sweat or lick themselves, their unique solution is to use bubbles.
The Curtin researchers found that the echidnas make bubbles with their noses, which then explode and moisten their noses. When the moisture evaporates, it cools their blood, effectively functioning as an ‘evaporation window’. In addition to this, the spines and fur that cover the body also help to retain heat – allowing only the exposed areas, such as the abdomen and legs, to cool off if the echidnas need it.
The study, which was published in the journal ‘Biology Letters’, suggests the importance of understanding the thermal biology of echidnas, in order to predict how they would respond to global warming. Additionally, Dr Cooper highlighted the usefulness of technology like thermal vision when studying animal physiology.