Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How Animals Keep Their Cool

Now that summer’s here, a lot of us probably plan on spending our free time at the pool. When it’s hot outside, nothing’s better than jumping into some nice, cool water to relax. But, when a/c or an ice-cold dip isn’t an option, our bodies still find a way to keep us cool; we sweat. Animals in the wild don’t have the option to crank up the air conditioner when they get too hot, so they’ve developed their own ways to cool down.
Photo: CoolFox
Now, we all know that dogs will pant when they get hot, as their tongues are very effective at releasing heat from their bodies, but did you know they also sweat from their feet? Dogs don’t have a lot of sweat glands like we do, but if overheated they can sweat from between their toes. Other mammals such as squirrels sweat in this same way. Cows can sweat from their muzzles, and rabbits sweat from their lips, though neither nearly as much as humans. Birds have no sweat glands at all, so they will flare their feathers and open their mouths in hot weather to increase their surface area and evaporate water from the surface of their bodies.

Photo: Rene Modery
 Have you ever heard the phrase “sweating like a pig”? Well, that’s not really possible, because pigs don’t sweat at all. To regulate their body temperatures, pigs have to roll in mud or water, which draws the heat from their bodies. They look like a mess, but they’re just trying to stay cool!

Photo: Andrew Smith
Cold-blooded animals such as reptiles, amphibians, and fish have body temperatures that are the same as the air or water around them, and do not sweat. Land-going reptiles that are too hot will do their best to find shade or burrow into cool soil. If shade is not available, some have the ability to lighten their skin color, making it more reflective. Fish often seasonally migrate to deeper, cooler waters to regulate their temperatures.
Photo: Phillip Halling
Of course, we’re not the only ones who enjoy a nice swim in hot weather. Have a safe and happy summer!

Photo: Wen-Yan King

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