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Researchers Find Donkeys And Horses Dig Holes In The Desert That Are Vital For Other Species.

Humans aren’t the only ones digging wells and holes: Researchers have found that wild donkeys and horses in the American Southwest also dig holes in the desert with their hooves, creating a network of springs. freshwater that is proving vital to the creatures of the area. This research is of considerable importance, as it challenges the belief that wild equines were considered invaders because they were present in areas where they did not live a few hundred years ago.

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image credit: BoixRichter twitter

The Sonoran and Mojave deserts in America are currently home to 95,000 wild horses and donkeys: these are considered “invasive pests” because they are not native to the region, unlike other herbivores, and they trample on them. native plants. Researcher Erick Lundgren, from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, has shown that their presence in the desert should be protected, as their action would be vital for the survival of certain species, helping them to fight against the heat.

Digging holes for water is a very common behavior among large mammals: for example, in Africa, wells dug by elephants are an incredible gift for other species. It’s no coincidence that elephants – along with other species like beaver and bison – are called ” ecosystem engineers ” because their actions impact flora and fauna.

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image credit: BoixRichter twitter

Over three summers, researchers monitored the wells by installing cameras to view wildlife in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona and at a site in the Mojave Desert near Baker. Donkeys and horses dig wells in these places; both are skilled diggers: with their front hooves, they dig sand and gravel behind. Scientists found that 57 different species frequented the waterholes created by donkeys and wild horses: bobcats, deer, jays, birds, and other vertebrates watered in these holes.

The main problem in deserts is the scarcity of water, and during droughts and hot summers these animals can increase its availability and greatly help the entire ecosystem. Can the studies conducted by the researchers help to change the popular belief that donkeys and wild horses are “invaders”?

Source used:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/372/6541/491

 nationalgeographic

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