|Mammals are endothermic, which means they have the ability to regulate their body temperature from the inside. This is unlike ectothermic animals, such as reptiles, who have to go out into the sun to warm themselves up.1
Thermoregulation allows mammals to live in various climates and keep their temperature at an optimal level, regardless of the surrounding temperature (up to a point). If the internal temperature of a mammal gets too high, they get hyperthermia. If the internal temperature gets too cold, they get hypothermia.2
The control of body temperature is done by the hypothalamus. This is a brain gland that is responsible for heat production and heat loss. It gets information from other parts of the body, such as receptors in the skin and the temperature of the blood in the body.3
Depending on the mammal, there are a few ways to regulate body temperature:
- Goosebumps – this slows the airflow over the skin and reduces the amount of heat lost
- Thick skin or blubber – this gives the animal an extra layer of protection in harsh conditions, such as polar bears or walruses2
- Shivering – this generates heat to keep the body warm
- Sweating – this allows for evaporative cooling to bring down the body temperature
- Panting – another method of evaporative cooling3
- Opening capillaries – the capillaries of the skin can open up and allow heat to escape, cooling off the body
- Adjusting fur – animals with fur can either flatten or puff it up to allow more or less air to get trapped within it1
These methods of regulating body temperature require a lot more energy from mammals. Mammals need to eat about ten times the amount of food that ectothermic animals do.1
Read more: check out our blog on how wolves stay warm in the winter.
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