START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x

Top 10 Weird Ways Animals Stay Warm in Winter


Animals  (tags: animals, cold weather, photos, cold, skills, biology, behavior )

Giana
- 352 days ago - news.discovery.com
Cold weather drains animals' energy supplies by sucking away their body heat. To conquer the cold, animals evolved astounding survival skills such as antifreeze blood, lounging by hot springs, and even having gender-bender orgies.



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

Comments

Christeen Anderson (539)
Sunday December 8, 2013, 4:05 am
Thanks for this share.
 

Frances Darcy (224)
Sunday December 8, 2013, 6:12 am
That's nature ..
 

Natasha Salgado (563)
Sunday December 8, 2013, 8:50 am
Animals are extraordinary!
 

Shaheen N. (64)
Monday December 9, 2013, 11:12 pm
Interesting & informative post. Thanks for sharing.
 

Leen Kel (32)
Monday December 9, 2013, 11:32 pm
They are just so beautiful they way they are :)
 

Dogan Ozkan (5)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 12:34 am
noted
 

Fi T. (16)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 1:34 am
There's always intelligence we can learn from other lives; respect them
 

Frans Badenhorst (558)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 1:34 am
fascinating - the hibernation makes most sense to me though :) - thanks Giana
 

Leszek P. (166)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 1:37 am
Noted
 

(8)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 3:26 am
Notée. Merci pour ces informations très intéressantes et instructives.
 

Tanya W. (53)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 4:20 am
Noted thanks.
 

cecily w. (0)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 4:36 am
Loved this article. Thank you, Giana.
 

Ruth S. (304)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 6:40 am
Noted
 

Rosemary H. (34)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 8:57 am







Video: Elks on Trampolines: Why Animals Play





Birds Take Flight for Fall Migration: Photos





Sweet Methuselah! Oldest Animals on the Planet






submit


Animals

Top 10 Weird Ways Animals Stay Warm in Winter

Dec 3, 2013 12:40 AM ET // by Tim Wall











Previous / Next



Too Cool for Cold











Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), adult and young baby in Snow Hill Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Cordier Sylvain/Corbis


Cold weather drains animals' energy supplies by sucking away their body heat. To conquer the cold, animals evolved astounding survival skills such as antifreeze blood, lounging by hot springs, and even having gender-bender orgies.

Emperor penguins survive in the Antarctic by leaning back and keeping their cool. The outer surface of the bird's feathers drops to lower temperatures than the surrounding air. A team of biologists used heat-sensitive cameras to observe the bird's chilly exteriors. The super cold feathers may help the birds warm up on cloudless days by a physical process known as convection, suggested the authors of the penguin study published in Biology Letters. Feathers don't protect the penguin's feet, though. The biologists noted that the birds would lean back and pick their toes up off the ice. The non-perpendicular penguins could reduce heat loss from their feet by fifteen percent using this technique.








A young icefish.

Uwe Kils, Wikimedia Commons


Beneath the penguins in the depth of the Antarctic seas, species of icefish thrive in deep waters that average -2 degrees Celsius. The water doesn't freeze because of the intense pressure from the water above. The Antarctic icefish evolved antifreeze proteins flowing in their blood and bodily tissues that keep the fish from freezing.

On the other side of the planet, the northern cod developed a nearly identical form of the antifreeze protein. Cod and icefish aren't closely related, and the production of antifreeze protein follows different genetic pathways in the fish, according to research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Northern cod and icefish provide an example of convergent evolution, when two distantly related species reach a similar biological solution to a problem.

PHOTOS: Life on the Ocean Floor Garbage Patch









The European common lizard (Lacerta vivipara)

Mathias Krumbholz, Wikimedia Commons


Unlike icefish and cod, many cold-blooded animals die in subzero temperatures because the water in their blood turns to ice. The ice crystals puncture the cells of the animal's body like millions of tiny razor blades. However, some reptiles and amphibians evolved a sweet way to survive being frozen.

To avoid being stabbed from the inside out, some frogs and lizards increase the amount of glucose, a type of sugar, and glycerol, a sugary alcohol, in their blood. Glucose and glycerol in the blood can help prevent the formation of ice crystals. The European common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) went a step further and developed specialized mitochondria, the energy producing part of the cell, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology. These mitochondria help the lizard continue producing energy without creating harmful byproducts even when half of the lizard's body water freezes.

7 Insects You'll Be Eating in the Future









A Burmese python on a clutch of eggs.

Paul Tessier, Getty Images


Not just northern lizards need to beat chills. Even in the balmy tropics, reptiles evolved ways to overcome their fate as cold-blooded creatures. The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) can warm its eggs using its own body. Although most snakes must use the environment to warm up, the python developed a way to raise the temperature of its nest.

The mother python wraps around her nest of eggs and rapidly flexes her muscles to produce body heat that can warm the nest by several degrees. After hatching though, the baby pythons must fend for themselves, as the mother python's maternal instincts only cover incubation.

Time to Eat, Zap, or Neuter Invasive Species









Alpine Marmots (Marmota marmota) in Hohe Tauern National Park, Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Carinthia, Austria.

Raimund Linke, Getty Images


Some animals evolved to sleep right through the cold. The alpine marmot (Marmota marmota), a small rodent from the mountains of Europe, sleeps through eight harsh months. In the four months of marmot activity, the animals scurry to mate and gorge on food to build fat reserves for the long winter's nap.

While most cold-hating birds migrate, the common poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) of western North America enters a state of torpor, similar to hibernation. The bird hides under rocks to sleep through the winter.

Even animals in the tropics hibernate. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius) sleeps through the winter of its native Madagascar, even though the air temperatures can rise to over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees F), according to a study published in Nature. Hibernating may help the lemur save energy during the dry season when little fruit and other food is available.

Top 4 Seasonal Foods to Eat Now









Red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) at a hibernaculum in Inwood, Manitoba, Canada.

Roberta Olenick, Getty Images


Sleeping through the winter, or hibernation, can be a social affair for some snakes. Dozens of garter snakes (Thamnophis sp.) den together to hibernate. After the cold passes the snakes emerge with an urge. The snakes form squirming mating balls as males attempt to fertilize females.

Some sneaky males will emit female scent chemicals that trick other males into trying to mate with them. These gender-bender garter snakes benefit by sapping some of the other males heat, which gives the tricksters an advantage as they warm up after winter.

Top 10 Evolutionary Tricks for Pollinators









A snow monkey relaxing after a nice bath in Jigokudani hot spring, Nagano, Japan.

Electra K. Vasileiadou, Getty Images


Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) live further north than any other primate species, except humans. In one of the coldest areas of the macaques' habitat, the Jigokudani valley of Nagano prefecture, one group of macaques learned to use man-made, hot-springs pools to warm up during the winter. Using the hot springs seems to be a learned behavior that the monkeys teach to each other.

In 1965, primatologists first documented juvenile monkeys taking dips in the hot springs. Now, approximately one-third of local macaques use the hot springs habitually, according to a 23-year-long study of the monkeys published in the American Journal of Primatology. Infants of mothers that bathed were more likely to grow up to use the hot springs as well. However, male monkeys that emigrated into the region in adulthood rarely bathed in the warm water.

11 Health Threats from Climate Change









Bison and winter snow at Yellowstone National Park.

Dennis Walton, Getty Images


Hot springs also serve as a winter lifeline for bison and elk in Yellowstone National Park. The animals congregate near geyser basins, such as Scalloped Spring, to take advantage of the warm ground near the geothermal springs, although often the water itself is too hot for bathing. The heat radiating from the spring saves the animals from burning up their own calories to stay warm, according to the National Park Service. However, a misstep can prove fatal. Bones of beasts litter the scalding waters of the some of the hot-spring pools.

The hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone receive their heat from geologic activity beneath the park. That same geological activity also slowly pushed the land beneath the park skyward. As the region goes higher, it also gets colder. Adding to the area's winter ferocity, the mountains around Yellowstone form a giant, stone bowl that traps the frigid air from the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

Unexpected Victims of Climate Change









Adult humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaching in the AuAu Channel between the islands of Maui and Lanai, Hawaii.

Michael S. Nolan, Getty Images


Whales also use a layer of fat, called blubber, to keep warm in the icy depth of the polar oceans. Blubber insulates the whales and traps their heat energy from escaping into the cold waters, like a scuba diver wearing a wet suit. Without the blubber, the whales would burn too many calories just trying to stay warm.

The cold-busting benefits of blubber can be modeled at home. First, fill a plastic bag with shortening or lard, these materials will mimic the effects of body fat. Then insert another bag and tape the tops of the two bags together so the fatty substance can't escape. Then, put a hand into the bag and squish the fat around until it surrounds the hand like an oven mitt. Put an ice cube into the blubber glove to see how well fat can protect an animal from the cold. The New England Aquarium provides more detailed instructions.

10 Ways Warmer Winters Wreck Earth









Infrared image of a polar bear.

Arno / Coen, Wikimedia Commons


Beneath its fur, the polar bear also has a layer of fat, known as blubber. To keep even warmer, the polar bear wears two fur coats. The bears sport short, fuzzy hairs close to their skin. Over that coat the bears have a thick layer of long, stiff hairs. This outer fur has a strange structure. The hairs are hollow, like drinking straws. The tiny tubes help to repel water, while the fuzzy undercoat traps heat.

Both of the bear's fur coats lack coloration. The fur reflects all the light that strikes it which makes the fur appear white. The polar bear's skin actually has a black hue. However, polar bears in captivity sometimes take on a greenish coloration because algae grow inside the tubes of the outer fur.

Lynx Kittens' Future Threatened by Warming World







Up Next

10 Ways to Astronomically Astound Your Friends







































MIND BLOWER

0%




MUST KNOW

0%




LOL

0%




GENIUS

0%




WIN

100%




REALLY?

0%

TagsEarthWeather & Extreme Events




Recommendedforyou













Article

ElephantSealCallsTellRivalsWho'sBoss





Gallery

WhatWeThinkMartiansLookLike





Video Playlist

DoesanAsteroidHaveEarth'sNameonIt?





Article

DistinctHumpbackWhalePopulationsFoundinNorthPacific





Video Playlist

DaretoStepInsidetheDisturbedMind





Dino-EraCrocsHadKillerJaws





MiniMeerkat,SchemingMarmotsTopAnimalPics





STUFF PEOPLE ARE SAYING










I think Emperor penguins are the best, even being able to incubate the egg on the feet of the male because it would freeze on the ice. But anyone who watches Sir David Attenborough's programmes is aware of all the ways in which animals beat cold. The most amazing, to me, is the caterpillar that need 14 years of eating during the short Arctic summers before it can pupate to become a moth. Each winter its body and even its blood freeze solid, yet it reawakens each spring!
 

Veronique L. (215)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 10:38 am
:-)
 

Shelli S. (359)
Tuesday December 10, 2013, 12:24 pm
What is with the comments? Interesting article, been worried about the animals here..temps have been at -40 below zero..way 2 cold. Thanks 4 posting.
 
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story


Loading Noted By...Please Wait

 

 
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.