In this episode, AskNature Nugget creator Andrea steps from behind the camera to talk about the adaptive properties of the saguaro and barrel cacti. How can humans better adapt to extreme heat and dry conditions? Let's look to nature's experts to find out.
AskNature Nuggets | Episode 14
Today we’re in the Arizona desert to talk about the adaptive properties of the saguaro cactus and the barrel cactus. Where humans use sunglasses and clothing to protect themselves from the sun, these particular cacti use special ridges and an accordion-like surface to survive the desert heat.
The saguaro uses the ridges to its advantage as a shading mechanism. You can see that this area of the saguaro that’s currently exposed to sunlight will be shaded by the next ridge over. As the sun moves throughout the day, the ridges cast shadows, reducing the amount of surface area exposed to direct sunlight.
The barrel cactus shades itself similarly but it also uses these ridges to expand and contract depending on the amount of moisture that it needs to hold. During the wetter seasons, these ridges allow the barrel cactus to actually expand and absorb more moisture in anticipation of the long, dry summers.
So what can humans learn from the saguaro or the barrel cactus? Can we create self-cooling buildings based on the surface design? Or can we create packaging that expands and contracts without the use of any additional materials? Let’s ask ‘em.