Desertification, caused by human activities including global warming, leads to environmental impoverishment, loss of biodiversity and productivity, and represents a threat to wildlife, agriculture, and human society. Many ecosystems worldwide are prone to desertificationHow do animals deal with desertification? Can we use desert animals as a model to better understand how animals respond to global climate change? 


Some animals can flourish in desert ecosystems. For example, springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) and oryx (Oryx gazella gazella) inhabit Damaraland in Namibia, one of the driest and hottest places on Earth. How do they cope with these climatic conditions, such as heat and drought?


Most desert ungulates have evolved impressive morphological, physiological and behavioural to harsh environments. Oryx and springbok gather moisture from plants and therefore do not need to drink. And they can also allow their core body temperatures to rise above 40°C without a problem. How can two large herbivores, such as springbok and oryx coexist in a dry and hot ecosystem? 

 

The diet of springbok and oryx differ. Springbok feed on grass and shrub whereas oryx almost exclusively feed on grass.  Do oryx and springbok respond differently to seasonal changes in climate. And which species is better able to cope with extreme conditions?

 

In the Oryx Project, we work to answer these fundamental questions.

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