Animals

These ecosystem engineers are not what you'd expect

By Claudia Posada

Living in a desert environment can present huge challenges.

Finding easy access to water in arid conditions is no easy feat. So what do the animal species within them do to make these habitats work for them? 

Humans have been digging wells for millions of millennia. And it turns out, other animals have been doing the same for survival purposes. Wild horses and donkeys in the Sonoran Desert of the United States have been spotted digging well up to two metres deep to actively find water. 

In this episode of #AmazeMe, Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin discuss a fascinating study, where camera traps revealed 59 different species at these wells. 

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The equids building these wells are not only providing a water source to a range of a species, but also attracting plants that otherwise wouldn't be able to grow here! These donkeys and horses are non native species, and have been reintroduced to North America. Approximately 10-12,000 years ago, similar species existed but became extinct. Scientists have hypothesised that these modern day horses are now fulfilling the role these ancient species once played. These wild equids are helping to shape the biodiversity of American deserts. 

Join Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin in more episodes of #AmazeMe as they explore the amazing animal world, from platypuses that can glow in the dark to penguin poo visible from space!