Summer is here and the heat is on. While Colorado travel brochures show off snow-capped peaks, lush forests, and raging rivers, you can thank Al Gore for the forest fires and triple-digit heat of late.
Nature is great and all, but it is time to roll up the windows and crank the air conditioning. Unfortunately for some of the less-advanced species out there, humans are the only known animals to have mastered the art of freon gas.
However, millions of years of evolution have not been for naught, as the animals of the world have come up with some interesting ways of staying cool that don’t burn a hole in the ozone layer (sorry, Australia).
While the obvious answer is shade, duh, that isn’t always an option in the savannah or desert. Take notes because next time your air conditioning breaks down, covering yourself in mud might sound a lot more appealing.
Toads, Snails, and Fish: Estivation
Estivation is the cold-blooded version of hibernation. Animals go into a state of dormancy, like a really deep sleep, during hot weather, and usually burrow underground to escape the heat like warm-blooded animals burrow to escape the cold.
Thankfully, most estivators don’t emerge from their slumber ready to eat the nearest hiker, a la grizzly bears. Some of the more interesting estivators are the lungfish of Africa, which burrow into the mud of drying lakes and create a cocoon of mucous in which they live until it rains again.
Elephants: Dirt Sunscreen
You might have seen this on Animal Planet before, but for those of you who have a life beyond Netflix, the gentle giants of the Savannah are quite fond of wallowing in mud, much to the delight of crocodiles and nature show hosts everywhere.
Wrinkles in their skin keep the mud in place, and the mud itself protects the elephant from the sun, but not the dozens of predators waiting to eat the elephant once it leaves the mud bog.
It is worthy to note that human wrinkles can serve a similar purpose, but it’s best not to mention it as an angry woman wearing a seaweed and avocado mask is scarier than any charging elephant.
Kangaroos: Dust Baths
Sure dust bath might be an oxymoron but I tried to convince my parents otherwise all throughout grade school (maybe that’s why they called me pigpen). Luckily for kangaroos, their parents are way cooler than mine, and let them take dust baths all the time.
These dust baths are a great inspiration for some sweet new dance moves or ways to scratch your back. In addition, to being a natural sunscreen much like mud, these dust baths help to remove insects and parasites from their fur and allow the ’roos to mark their territory.
Zoo Animals: Bloodsicles
Originally invented by Dracula’s lesser-known brother who owned a snow cone stand, bloodsicles have been adopted by many zoos as a way of keeping carnivorous animals cool during the summer.
Zoo creatures love to eat these tasty treats mainly because they have literally zero choice in what they eat short of those lucky days when someone tasty falls into the cage. Bloodsicles are exactly what they sound like–frozen blood.
While disgusting, they are an effective way of keeping a furry predator alive in a hot and completely unnatural environment. While Stripey, the fat, lazy, and neurotic tiger pent up at the zoo might look bored, rest assured he is loving that bloodsicle and plotting his escape with every lick.
Anything with Fur: Shedding
As anyone who has ever owned a malamute dog knows, shedding is a great way to stay cool and drive humans crazy. Any animal with fur sheds and most blow out their coat in the spring and fall. As you probably guessed, less fur means a cooler animal. My father claims this happens to him, although he seems to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of blowing out his winter coat, or what’s left of it, at least.
If you don’t want to get your air conditioning fixed or just feel like a change of pace, you have options. Shave your head, cover yourself in mud, roll in the dust, and create a cozy cocoon of mucous. While you might get some weird looks from other drivers, buying a Big Gulp while completely covered in mud can be a great conversation starter. If you would rather not go completely feral, you can always roll down the windows.
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