As winter approaches, animals have to adapt to the plummeting temperatures. Depending on what species they are, they may be made to thrive in cold temperatures, or they may need to hunker down for a while until warmer weather comes back around.
No matter what, all animals have adaptations to help them survive this seasonal change. It’s not always perfect though. Animals can die from hypothermia due to being out in the cold. As the weather cools down, it signals to animals to get ready for the winter. Their nervous system is responsible for recognizing temperature changes – this is a common thing for all vertebrates.1
Animals may eat more during this time because it takes a lot of energy to keep their body temperatures up where they need to be. Having enough food and fat stored gives them enough energy to keep their bodies warm. Certain animals can keep warm with blubber, which insulates their body.2
Some animals have what is called brown adipose tissue. This releases energy in the form of heat in a more efficient way than shivering. Wildlife can also grow thicker fur to prepare for the winter, and animals with fur or feathers can trap air close to their bodies for an extra layer of protection.1&3 The outer layer of fur or feathers on an animal is often moisture-repellent, which keeps them safe from wet weather like rain or snow.2
Animals can also huddle together in groups to keep warm. They may also burrow or hide themselves in cavities to keep warm from the weather outside. Fish are interesting because they have special enzymes and proteins in their bodies that keep them from freezing and allow them to continue to function in very cold water.1
Other ways animals may keep warm include:3&4
- Puffing up fur or feathers
- Isolating blood flow to specific parts of their body (like their legs!)
Depending on the animal, some are able to keep heat in so well that nothing escapes. Polar bears, for example, might not show up on night vision, because they don’t release any kind of heat, making them practically invisible on that tech.2
Wolves are pros at keeping warm in cold weather. Check out how they do so: How Do Wolves Keep Warm in the Winter?