Monday, June 29, 2020

Episode 531 (6-29-20): Animal Ways of Getting Water

Click to listen to episode (4:31)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-26-20. 


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 29, 2020.  This episode’s information is intended especially for Virginia elementary students learning about how where water is and how it's used.

MUSIC – ~ 5 sec – Instrumental

That excerpt of “Driving Rain,” by the Nelson County, Va., band Chamomile and Whiskey, opens an episode about something rain affects: that is, animals getting water.  Many animals, of course, get water simply by drinking from rivers, lakes, puddles, and other water sources.  But animals have several other ways to get water.  In this episode, I’ll play five kinds of animal mystery sounds, each for a few seconds.  After each sound, I’ll identify the animals and tell you something about how they get water.

SOUND - ~ 6 sec - Whale

That was the sound of a whale spouting water as it surfaced.  Whales and other sea mammals get most of their water from their food, including the water produced when food is digested, which is known as metabolic water.  All animals get some of their water through that process.

SOUND - ~ 5 sec – Rattlesnake

That was a rattlesnake rattle.  Snakes drink water, including water that collects on their skin, and rattlesnakes in desert areas have special skin structures that allow them to capture rainwater.

SOUND - ~ 7 sec – Gray Catbird
That was a [Gray] Catbird with a series of calls mimicking other birds.  Birds get water from food, including metabolic water, and from drinking in various ways, including pelicans opening their beaks to capture rainwater and small birds drinking from dew drops.  Some birds are able to use salt water as a water source.

SOUND - ~ 6 sec – Frogs and toad (Spring Peeper, American Toad, Gray Tree Frog)

Those were the calls of three kinds of frog or toad.  Frogs, toads, and other amphibians can absorb water through their skin.

SOUND - ~ 7 sec –Crickets and katydids
Those were the evening sounds of two kinds of insects, crickets and katydids.  Like many insects, these two kinds get water from plants they eat.  Insects can also get water by drinking from various sources, from bodily fluids of prey, and, for some insects, by taking water from the air.

Other animals, especially animals that live in dry environments, have other fascinating adaptations for getting and conserving water.  Getting water is one example of how the natural world offers plenty of surprises for inquiring explorers.

Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the whale and rattlesnake sounds.  Thanks also to Chamomile and Whiskey for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 20 more seconds of “Driving Rain.”

MUSIC - ~ 20 sec – Instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The whale and rattlesnake sounds were taken from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Digital Library, online at; the specific URL for the whale sound was, and for the rattlesnake sound was, as of 6/29/20.

The Gray Catbird was recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Blacksburg, Va., on June 26, 2020.

The Spring Peeper, Gray Tree Frog, and American Toad sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Blacksburg, Va., on April 29, 2012.

The crickets and katydids were recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Blacksburg, Va., on July 25, 2017, about 9:30 p.m.

“Driving Rain,” from the 2012 album “The Barn Sessions,” is copyright by Chamomile and Whiskey and by County Wide Records, used with permission.  More information about Chamomile and Whiskey is available online at, and information about Charlottesville-based County Wide records is available online at  This music was most recently used by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 500, 11-25-19.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Tail of a Humpback Whale, April 2017, location not identified.  Photo by Bill Thompson, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at; specific URL for the photo was, as of 6/29/20.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, April 2008, location not identified.  Photo by Gary Stolz, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at; specific URL for the photo was, as of 6/29/20.

Gray Catbird, photographed in Virginia Beach, Va., June 14, 2016.  Photo by Robert Suppa, made available on iNaturalist at, as of 6/29/20, for use under Creative Commons license “Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0.”  Information about this Creative Commons license is available online at

Seasonal pond habitat used by Spring Peepers and other amphibians, Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., May 28, 2020.


Used for Audio

Animalfoodplant, “What Do Crickets Eat?” online at

Joe Ballenger, “How much water can ants drink?” Ask an Entomologist Web site, 9/29/16, online at

Biology Online, “Metabolic Water,” online at

CBC Radio, Rattlesnakes have skin that's sticky for raindrops so they can sip from their scales, 1/20/20.

Don Glass, “How Insects Drink,” Indiana Public Media “Moment of Science” Web site, 3/16/04, online at

Richard W. Hill, Comparative Physiology of Animals: An Environmental Approach, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1976; see particularly pages 122 and 145-154.

Robert Kenney [University of Rhode Island marine biologist], “How can sea mammals drink saltwater?” Scientific American, 4/30/01, online at

Liz Langley, Meet the Beetles that Harvest Fog in the Desert, National Geographic, 4/7/18.  This article has information on how several kinds of animals get water.

Mara Katharine Lawniczak, “Eastern Grey Squirrel,” University of Michigan “Biokids” Web site, online at

J. Machin, “Water Vapor Absorption in Insects,” American Journal of Physiology, Vol 244, No. 2, February 1983, accessed online at

Catherine Myers, “How Desert Rattlesnakes Harvest Rainwater,” Inside Science (American Institute of Physics), 1/13/20, online at

St. Louis Zoo, “Amphibians,” undated, online at

University of Michigan “Biokids” Web site, “Katydids/Tettigoniidae,” undated, online at

University of Washington/Burke Museum, “Facts About Frogs,” undated, online at

Sonia Villabon, “Do Whales Drink Salt Water?” Whales Online, 9/19/17, online at

Joel C. Welty, The Life of Birds, 2nd Edition, W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, Penn., 1975; see particularly pages 98-100.

For More Information about Animals’ Biology and Habitats

Audubon Guide to North American Birds, online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide,” online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, “Animal Diversity Web,” online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, online at  Herpetology is the study amphibians and reptiles.

Virginia Society of Ornithology, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the subject categories for different animal groups (Birds, Fish, Insects, Reptiles, and Mammals), the “Overall Importance of Water” subject category, and the “Science” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes exploring water sources for animals.

Episode 313, 4-25-16, on honeybees.
Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey and other birds.


This episode was intended to support primarily the following two Virginia Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation; and
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Following are some other SOLs that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript or by other information included in this post.

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs
Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 – basic needs and processes of plants and animals.
1.5 – animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
3.4 – behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 – living things as part of a system, including habitats.
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.5 – properties and characteristics of water and its roles in the human and natural environment.

Life Science Course
LS.6 – ecosystem interactions, including the water cycle, other cycles, and energy flow.
LS.9 – adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors, including characteristics of land, marine, and freshwater environments.

Biology Course
BIO.4 – life functions (including metabolism and homeostasis) in different organism groups, including human health, anatomy, and body systems.
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to other Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.