Desert ungulates must contend with high solar radiation, high ambient temperatures, a lack of water and cover, unpredictable food resources, and the challenges these factors present for thermoregulation and water balance. To deal with the conflicting challenges of maintaining body temperature within acceptable limits and minimizing water loss, desert ungulates use a variety of physiological, morphological, and behavioral mechanisms. The mechanisms involved in thermoregulation and water balance have been studied in many domestic and wild African and Middle Eastern ungulates; studies involving ungulates inhabiting North American deserts are limited in comparison. Our objectives were to review available scientific literature on thermoregulation, water balance, and the effects of dehydration in desert ungulates. We discuss the physiological, morphological, and behavioral mechanisms used by ungulates to maintain temperature and water balance in arid environments, and the implications for research and management of desert ungulates in western North America.
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