Water Economy of the Ostrich


STUDIES of the physiology and water relations of desert birds have dealt with a few carinate species1, but practically nothing is yet known of the adaptations of the ostrich Struthio camelus L. to hot, dry environments. Because it is large, the ostrich cannot obtain shelter from the rigours of its environment in the manner of smaller birds, but we have found it to possess salt-excretory nasal glands which enable it to utilize saline water. At least one subspecies, S. camelus massaicus, frequents the neighbourhood of salt and soda lakes2. It has been suggested that ostriches can exist on dry or succulent food without needing free water, but no experiments have previously been carried out to confirm this. We are therefore investigating the water economy of S. camelus in the Sudan.


  1. 1

    Dawson, W. R., and Schmidt-Nielsen, K., in Adaptation to the Environment (edit. by Dill, D. B.), Handbook of Physiology, Sect. 4, 481 (Amer. Physiol. Soc., Washington, D.C., 1964).

  2. 2

    Schmidt-Nielsen, K., Desert Animals (Oxford Univ. Press, 1964).

  3. 3

    Ghobrial, L. I., and Cloudsley-Thompson, J. L., Nature, 212, 306 (1966).

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CLOUDSLEY-THOMPSON, J., MOHAMED, E. Water Economy of the Ostrich. Nature 216, 1040 (1967). https://doi.org/10.1038/2161040a0

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