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Do animals sweat? Here's a poem to answer that question


Now a story about sweat, for summer is the time of year for perspiration, and NPR's science reporters have launched an investigation. Rebecca Hersher looked into how animals deal with hotter climes, and she gives her report as a series of rhymes.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Do animals sweat? my editor said. Hmm, I said, as I scratched my head. That's a summertime question that I'd like to answer about all the creatures - from parrots to panthers. To interview critters, I knew where to go - the Maryland Zoo.


HERSHER: Oh, hello.

That's Cactus the hawk.

Hello, do you sweat?

The answer was no from his side of the net.

His neighbor macaw was friendly...


HERSHER: ...But didn't sweat either. So I had to go and interview someone who actually knew.

ELLEN BRONSON: I take care of all the animals at our zoo.

HERSHER: Ellen Bronson's head vet and says most beasts don't sweat. She says research has proven...

BRONSON: Animals don't sweat nearly as much as humans.

HERSHER: We humans are sweaty - more than all other apes. When our smooth skin gets moist, it helps heat escape. And that keeps us cool when we're out in the sun. We don't need to rest when there's stuff to be done - like a zoo to visit.

Man, there are so many humans here sweating.


HERSHER: It's so hot.

But most warm-blooded beings have fur, feathers or hair. Any moisture or sweat would get trapped under there. So for most creatures, perspire, they can't. Instead, on a very hot day...

BRONSON: They can pant.

HERSHER: Lots of animals pant - way more than just dogs - badgers and deer, cows, even frogs - and birds, like ravens, believe it or not.


HERSHER: Hot, hot, hot.


HERSHER: Back outside at the zoo, I walk through the heat to the lion enclosure.

RYAN HEJDUK: We do ice treats.

HERSHER: Ryan Hejduk helps take care of the cats. He says lions can pant, but it takes more than that. On a very hot day, when the shade won't suffice, the lions are lucky. They get special ice. Take...

HEJDUK: Some leftover blood from part of their diet...

HERSHER: Freeze it into a bloodsicle (ph). I wouldn't try it.


HERSHER: So check your vanities. Sweating's part of humanity. We're the moistest of creatures. Of that, be proud. And the next time you're in a big, sweaty crowd, don't give into disgust, self-hate or frustration. Instead, just give thanks for your perspiration. Be impressed by your sweat - how it glistens and oozes. Rebecca Hersher, NPR News-es (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

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