I’m still working on the novelette featuring a winged species of humanoids that are adapted for thin air, which on their current world means icy mountain ranges. The species was originally inspired by the oxygenation advantages of blue blood (i.e. horseshoe crabs) because I was interested in a fae species that didn’t have iron-based blood. Since iron is famously deadly to the fae, I was chased that logic chain, but then I got curious about other tricks for dealing with extreme temperatures...
- Dogs have sweat glands in their ear canals and on the pads of their feet, but mostly thermoregulate via panting.
- The blue spiny lizard of Mexico is spending so much time hiding from the sun that it’s being driven to extinction because it can’t hunt or mate.
- Some storks and vultures deliberate poop on their legs as a way to cool down.
- Other species of birds vibrate the muscles and bones of their throats to expose the moist membranes in their throats to the air. It’s called gular fluttering.
- Scientists are engineering bacteria that can be controlled via temperature, which will hopefully let them be safer and more effective as treatments for various diseases and cancers.
Bigger & Colder
Naked mole rats — unique for having a social structure similar to ants — are one of the few mammals that cannot internally regulate their own body temperature. They generally live underground in the desert regions of the Horn of Africa in burrows with an ambient temperature between 29°–32° C (84°–89° F). Mole rats manage their temperature by building nests with favorable air and soil temperatures, and will choose soil depths correlated to their size. [Read More]
Cod, sea ravens, and some species of herring have antifreeze proteins in their blood to help them survive polar saltwater environments where the freezing point of the surrounding water is normal than most species’ body fluids. These proteins keep dangerous ice crystals from hurting the fish. Other fish will just “hold on” to the salt they ingest in order to keep from freezing. [Read More]
Sweating is a relatively rare adaptation for regulating body heat; only primates and horses have lots of sweat glands. Horses have two kinds of sweat glands, apocrine glands basically sweat through hair follicles, and eccrine glands sweat right onto the surface of the skin. In horses, eccrine sweat glands are only located on the bottoms of their feet, but apocrine glands are pretty much all over… which is the exact opposite way humans are set up. [Read More
Some species of octopods are actually able to edit their own RNA in response to adverse environmental conditions, like water that is too cold. The upshot is that an arctic octopus and a tropical octopus can have virtually the same DNA, but an octopus living in cold water open and close the ion channels that conduct the electrical signals carrying neural messages much more slowly. [Read More]