Fat, Fur and Feathers to keep animals warm

When it’s freezing cold outside, do you ever stop to think about wild animals are coping in the low temperatures? Yes, they have things we don’t, to help them when the weather turns grim but how does this work? Here, we take a look at nature’s wonderful methods for protecting against the elements – insulation and blubber.

If you want to know a little more about how insulation works then try this quick experiment. Fill a container with ice and water and choose a range of different available materials to wrap a finger with. Choose a wide range of different materials and see which one are best at keeping your finger warm for the longest time.

Basically, insulators are not very good at conducting heat. Heat will always travel to cold spots in order to even out the temperature so a material that doesn’t conduct heat well will be better for keeping you warm for longer. Animals use a variety of ways to keep warm in harsh conditions such as blubber, fur and downy feathers. Thankfully, us humans can just pull on an extra jumper and turn the central heating on. Before the cold weather descends, check your boiler is in good condition. For Boiler Repair Gloucester, visit

Blubber works by offering a layer of fat underneath the skin. Eating lots provides animals with a build-up of blubber that develops to help them survive in extremely cold deep ocean conditions. Water in some parts of the world can plummet as low as 54 degrees Fahrenheit and blubber is essential for stopping the animals’ internal organs from freezing. Small marine animals like seals and small whales might have up to a few inches of blubber but a huge whale could have blubber up to a foot thick!

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Fur is another of nature’s impressive insulators and when you think of the environment that the polar bear lives in, you get an idea of how important this fur is. That fur is working hard to keep the bear’s body at a pleasant 37 degrees Celsius while temperatures fall to a deadly -40. It was thought that the fur trapped a layer of warm air next to the skin but this doesn’t account for the huge variation in temperature between the bear and the surrounding air. Further studies have shown that the polar bear’s white coloured fur is essential as it traps their radiated body heat, reabsorbing radiation and camouflages them in the snow. Clever stuff!

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Birds fare quite well in cold conditions due to their much higher metabolism rates which pushes their body temperature up too. This isn’t enough though, especially for tiny birds, to cope when a big freeze occurs. This is where feathers come into play. Birds produce a special oil that coats the feathers and this acts as an additional insulator and waterproofing mechanism. Even small birds can also build-up fatty reserves like blubber to provide them with extra energy for maintaining a high metabolism. Birds can also cleverly control the temperature of their legs and feet independently from their body, constricting blood flow and preventing heat loss.

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