Wednesday, September 02, 2020

[zovxjmrf] Pronghorn cooling

One of humans' advantages in persistence hunting is we are mostly hairless so can dissipate a lot of heat through sweating and evaporation.  (And we can carry water with us to replace lost sweat.)

The pronghorn is an animal that can sustain even higher speeds than human for extended distances.  How does a pronghorn stay cool?

Perhaps the pronghorn's endurance exceeds human only during cold weather.  Other than maybe human, it probably had no predators who could chase it at high speeds over long distances in hot weather, because predators also face the same problem of cooling.  Persistence hunting of a pronghorn by a human in hot weather is an experiment that could be carried out today.  (Pronghorns were in the Americas long before humans, so humans are unlikely to have driven the evolution of pronghorn endurance.  However, can we reliably determine the endurance of an animal through fossils?)

Perhaps the pronghorn does cooling through breathing, an internal forced-air radiator.  Is it also taking advantage of phase change, i.e., sweating, inside the lungs?  If so, that requires water reserves.  If not, it seems it would require a radically different lung construction to conserve moisture, and a huge amount of air.

The pronghorn no longer faces evolutionary pressure to maintain its tremendous endurance, because the predator which induced it is extinct.  Should humans fill the role in order to preserve the ability?  Probably chase (and kill) the slowest of them from a motor vehicle.  (Or bicycle?)

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