B2 - Anatomical Adaptations to the Cold

These revision cards aim to help you learn, understand, and memorise the types of adaptations some animals have to survive their cold environment.

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What is the aim of these anatomical adaptations?

An anatomical adaptation is a feature of an organism's anatomy that helps it to survive.

The aim of any anatomical adaptation is to help the organism survive in the environment it exists in. This is the case for specialist and generalist organisms.

In cold environments, the anatomical adaptations would be required to reduce heat loss, as that is the main priority in such a harsh environment.

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Thick Fur

Having thick fur will help trap the heat against the organism's skin.

It will also provide a form of insulation.

The thickness of the fur reduces the amount of heat lost.

Therefore, this is a vital adaptation.

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Blubber Layer

Blubber is just another word for fat.

Fat acts as an energy store, and since as surviving the cold takes a lot of energy, it is useful.

Also, it acts as insulation.

This means less heat is lost to the environment.

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Small Surface Area to Volume Ratio

This is where an organism has...

  • large size
  • compact body shape

...and the affect is that less heat is lost through the skin.

This is a necessary adaptation.

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Counter-Current Heat Exchange System

Animals like penguins need to stand on ice all day. A common question asked about penguins is, how come their feet don't freeze?

Well, the counter-current heat exchange system they have means that the blood vessels in their feet pass close by, transferring the heat from the hot blood to the cold blood, and warming it up before it goes back to the heart.

Although the feet stay cold, it stops the penguin from dying through cold blood.

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The Key Words From This Section

  • anatomical adaptations
  • thick fur
  • blubber layer
  • large size
  • compact body shape
  • small surface area to volume ratio
  • counter-current exchange systems
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