Letter | Published:

Effect of Deprivation of Water on the Dorcas Gazelle

Naturevolume 212page306 (1966) | Download Citation



IN a previous communication1 we stated that the Dorcas gazelle Gazella dorcas dorcas (L.) requires water or succulent food in order to maintain homeostasis in desert conditions. It loses weight steadily on a diet of dry sorghum (millet) without water. Feeding ceases when 14–17 per cent of normal body weight has been lost and the animals appear weak and emaciated. This may take up to 12 days under winter conditions at Khartoum when the air temperature ranges between about 10° C (50° F) and 30° C (84° F) with a relative humidity varying from 20 to 40 per cent; but, in summer, when the air temperature fluctuates from about 35° C (95° F) to 45° C (113° F), with a relative humidity varying from 10 to 30 per cent, gazelles cannot survive for more than about 5 days without water. Two experimental animals died after 6 days' water deprivation, during which they lost 24 per cent of their original weight. This contrasts with a loss of 30 per cent which can be tolerated without ill effects by the camel2 and about 12 per cent which can be withstood by man and most other mammals3.

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  1. 1

    Cloudsley-Thompson, J. L., and Ghobrial, L., Nature, 207, 1313 (1965).

  2. 2

    Schmidt-Nielsen, B., Schmidt-Nielsen, K., Houpt, T. R., and Jarnum, S. A., Amer. J. Physiol., 185, 185 (1956).

  3. 3

    Adolph, E. F., Physiology of Man in the Desert (Interscience, New York, 1947).

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  1. Department of Zoology, University of Khartoum



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