How does surface area to volume ratio affect the retention of heat in animals in cooler climates?

Michelle Weinstein, Brooke Zimmer


Animals exposed to cold temperatures in their natural environment are able to survive and flourish due to their better insulation and ability to retain heat. Animals in cooler climates tend to be larger because their small surface-area to volume (SA/V) ratio cause them to lose heat at a lower rate. We tested this by placing cubes of clay in a bucket of ice and measuring their internal temperature to determine which retained heat better. Both large and small models were measured at room temperature and placed side-by-side in a bucket of ice. The large cubes lost heat at a lower rate than the smaller models. The large cubes were therefore able to retain their initial heat loner because of their smaller SA/V ratio. In this study, we conducted four trials to help explain why animals with a smaller SA/V ratio are able to withstand colder environments than smaller animals with larger SA/V ratios.

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French, D. 2014. Investigating Biology: A Laboratory Resource Manual. 2014 Edition. Fountainhead Press: Fort Worth, TX. Print.


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