Cooling Rate: Bring on the Heat!

Greg Mulholland, Jimmie Ryan Mileham, Chathurika Henpita


            This study was completed in order to take a more advanced look at the relations between the dimensions of an animal and the climate of which it lives in. Every type of climate presents a region only sustainable for certain types of animals to maintain life in, and there are several factors that play into this sustainability. When analyzing the information at hand, an important question must be researched, “Why are animals shaped differently in cooler climates than in warmer ones?” (French 2014). Although a study of subspecies of badgers has been conducted prior to this experiment, we cannot use this information due to its inadequacy of answering the main question because no evidence of animal shape was presented in the research. We went about the research question in a way that examined a key relationship between the temperature an animal typically resides in and its dimensions such as surface area and volume. Once obtaining the measuring equipment needed, a heat source, and modeling clay, we were able to properly represent different body masses with cubic shaped clay in order to undergo an experiment that tested the cooling rate of these differently formed shapes when all are heated for the same amount of time. The completion of this experiment lead to results that had a key impact on giving a potential, reliable answer for the question we aimed to explain. When summarizing the implications gathered from the data, it is important to realize that organisms in colder climates have a larger, more compact shape, resulting in a smaller surface area to volume ratio, leading us to understand there is less area that can lose heat, ultimately giving these organisms the ability to retain the warmer temperature needed to survive in their particular climate. Many wish to understand why “cold environment conditions and small body size promote heat loss and may create thermoregulatory challenges” (Pearson 2014). You can use our research to further build upon the current explanation for why animal shape differs in a variety of climates.

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