Endotherms use physiological effectors to raise or lower temperatures. If cold, they will generate heat (thermogenesis) by rapid muscular contractions (shivering) or increased oxidation of fats. Simultaneously, devices minimizing heat loss will be implemented. These include lowered ventila tion (breathing) rates; since inhaled air is warmed during passage through the respiratory tract, heat is lost with each expiration. Also, superficial blood vessels narrow (vasoconstriction), reducing flow of warm blood to the skin, from which heat is lost by convection. Attempts to insulate skin are illustrated by "goose bumps." Though ineffective in sparsely haired humans, this reaction to cold is quite effective in mammals with thick body hair or fur. Muscles attached to hair follicles contract and draw hairs into an upright position, and the ends droop, trapping dead air between matted ends and skin. A fine undercoat in many species enhances the process. Dead air is an excellent barrier to heat flow. A similar device affecting feathers exists in birds.

When hot, endotherms keep muscular activity to a minimum, increase ventilation rates (panting), and expand superficial blood vessels (vasodi-lation). Rates of heat dissipation in some mammals are enhanced by sweating. Sweating and panting rely on evaporative cooling, the same principle involved in using radiators to prevent hot automobile engines from overheating. Endo-therms adapted to hot climates produce concentrated urine and dry feces to conserve water, since much is lost in cooling.

Many of these mechanisms are surface-area related. Consequently, endotherms in hot climates, especially large species with relatively poor surface-to-volume ratios, often possess structures, such as elephant's ears, to increase area through which heat may be dissipated. On the other hand, endotherms occupying cold habitats are designed to minimize exposed surfaces. For example, arctic hares have short ears and limbs compared to the otherwise similar jackrabbits of warmer climes. In addition, cold-adapted endotherms may decrease rates of heat loss from poorly insulated appendages by means of countercurrent mechanisms. Heat from blood in arteries flowing into a limb is passed to venous blood returning to the body. This minimizes the amount of heat carried into a limb, whose surface-to-volume ratio is very high. It also functions to warm the returning blood, which prevents cooling of the body core. The appendages themselves are very cold; portions may even be at below-freezing temperatures. Actual freezing is prevented by special fats in the extremities.

How To Boost Your Metabolism

How To Boost Your Metabolism

In The Next 45 Minutes You're Going To Discover How To Boost Your Metabolism And Lose Weight. Who Else Wants To Boost Their Metabolism And Shed Pounds Fast?

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment