While humans mostly try to avoid assholes, desert animals have a different view.
Scientists have found that wells dug by horses and donkeys in arid regions may help provide water to other animals. Researchers have long known that larger animals in arid ecosystems dug holes and wells that provided water for other species, this behaviour has now been identified in feral equids (a scientific term for donkeys and horses).
In short, asses’ holes are proving to be a great bonus for other animals in these dry regions.
A team of researchers based in Sydney, Australia and Arizona, USA, have published a paper about how equids are capable of engineering the availability of water in desert zones.
Erick Lundgren and his team tested whether feral horses and donkeys that had been reintroduced to desert regions in the US southwest dug wells that were helpful for the rest of the ecosystem. “It’s a very hot, dry desert and you’ll get these pretty magical spots where suddenly there is surface water,” says Lundgren.
It turns out the holes not just increased water availability but also reduced the distance between water sources; it even led to increased germination in some key types of trees.
“These resources are in fact used by all other animals; there was a cacophony of organisms,” adds Lundgren.
On average, the equid-dug wells reduced the distance between drinking water by 843m, thus lessening the time it took for animals to find water. These extra drinking spots had the further advantage of easing the competition and tension often found at more isolated drinking locations.
Just goes to show, ass holes are not always to be avoided.