Personally, I love prairie dogs. Not only do they have the killer adorable looks, they are also gifted with innate knowledge of the laws of physics!!! (Wait what!?!?) So why are prairie dogs some of the most interesting animals on Earth? The burrows can reach 10 m or 32 feet in length, and this size means that diffusion alone is not sufficient to replace used air inside the burrow with fresh air. The way that a prairie dog builds the openings to its burrow, however, helps to harness wind energy from the windy plains and create passive ventilation through the burrow’s tunnels.
As air flows across a surface, a gradient in flow speed forms, where air moves slower the closer it is to the surface. The prairie dog is able to take advantage of this gradient by building a mound with an elevated opening upwind and a mound with a lower opening downwind. Over the elevated opening, wind velocity is faster than it is over the lower opening, creating a local region of low pressure (due to Bernoulli’s principle). The result of this difference in pressure between the two openings is one-way air flow through the burrow as air gets sucked into the lower opening and flows out the elevated one. Essentially, prairie dogs know how to build the perfect burrows to provide themselves FREE and NATURAL AIR CONDITIONING! How amazing! It’s so beautiful to see how nature has its way of using physics and resources in our world to help its organisms sustain life.