The Desert Environment OpenCourseWare: The Open University's Free Bachelor Level Animal Science Class on the Desert Environment

Published Feb 13, 2009

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The climate of the desert is a harsh extreme of temperature gradients, scant rainfall and sparse vegetation, making it one of the most challenging places for vertebrates to live. Yet the desert is home to a diverse population of animals, and this free noncredit course, 'Animals at the Extremes: The Desert Environment' from the Open University, can introduce students to the many unique plants and animals that live in such climates, as well as serve as review for students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences.

Animals at the Extremes: The Desert Environment: Course Specifics

Degree Level Free Audio Video Downloads
Undergraduate Yes No No Yes

Lectures/Notes Study Materials Tests/Quizzes
Yes Yes Yes

Animals at the Extremes: The Desert Environment: Course Description

This free course can lead students on an examination of how each desert has differing characteristics, leading to a unique population of species at each location. A look at how each specie finds a 'niche' in its environment reflects the response to the many 'microenvironments' found in the desert. Body size is revealed to be a key factor in how animals in the desert interact with their environment. Behavioral strategies of three classes of desert vertebrates - evaders, evaporators, and endurers - are examined, as are biological factors affecting the physiological functioning of these classes. Rather than compare the organ systems of animals solely by a physiological comparison, the course studies desert animals as they fit within their habitat. This course utilizes readings, a group of questions, and an online forum for participants, along with a list of references and further reading suggestions. Students engaged in a life sciences major at any university may find this course to be helpful.

The readings and other course materials are all free. If you'd like to take this course, visit the desert environment course page.

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