Desert Bighorn Adaptations

The Peninsular desert bighorn is truly a remarkable animal. From the massive curl of a ram’s horns to their agility in steep rocky terrain, they create a sense of awe. But of all their unique characteristics, the ability to survive in the desert’s harsh environment may be the most fascinating.

Over the centuries, bighorn sheep have evolved special adaptations in order to endure

the demanding conditions of the desert. Both physical and physiological (organs, tissue, etc.) specializations are necessary to withstand the searing heat of summer

and limited supplies of drinking water.

[endif]--One physical characteristic which aids the bighorn to endure the desert’s blistering heat, is their tan colored pelage (hair coat). This light coloring enables the sheep to reflect approximately 40% of the sun’s rays, thus reducing their surface heat intake.

Desert bighorn are able to dissipate heat primarily through their respiratory tract by panting. Although bighorn do have functional sweat glands, it is thought that only a small fraction of the heat dissipated is actually derived from sweating.

One obvious way they help reduce the heat load is to avoid direct sunlight. To do this, bighorn will often bed down in shaded areas when available and remain relatively inactive during the hottest portion of the day and seek out shade where possible.