Keeping Cool

The heat of summer has been beastly lately, so how do the beasts of Camp Salmen keep from overheating or expiring outright? They use thermoregulation — the ability to keep their temperature within the right operating range in order to function properly. While winter’s cold requires that hot and cold-blooded animals use a certain set of strategies, Louisiana’s endless, torrid summer demands a whole other set of tricks, unless, of course, you’re a human and you just head for the air conditioning.

Avoidance — dig a hole in the ground and stay in it during the heat of the day like armadillos, some reptiles and insects do.  The number one rule: stay in the shade! Crawl under something; seek the coolest microclimate, preferably one with moisture (more about that in a bit). If you can, fly away to a cooler part of the continent like Canadian Geese do. Elephants and hippopotami (neither of which reside at Camp Salmen by the way) would ease themselves into the cooling waters of Bayou Liberty like our alligators do.

Topor — this is the summer version of winter hibernation when high-vibration animals like hummingbirds and bats hole up during the heat of the day and quiet down.

Panting—dogs, wolves, lemurs, alligators, birds and bears, all covered in either insulating fat, feathers or fur, simply open their mouths and suck in the outside air to turn their oral cavities and lungs into heat exchangers that exhaust internal heat. Some of these animals do this in combination with other techniques. Shedding fur and feathers from a winter coat is another good idea.

Sweat — if a human can’t stay in air conditioning, he or she must rely on his or her sweat. For those that exist all summer by scampering from one air conditioned space to another and somehow end up trapped outside, you’ll recognize this condition by the wet stuff oozing out of your pores to the point of saturating your clothing. Don’t panic and freak out or call an ambulance, this might just save your life.

The sweating technique is used to varying degrees by most mammals, but horses and humans do it by the gallon. It takes advantage of an elegant aspect of physics: evaporative cooling. When a droplet of water (or sweat) turns into vapor it actually stores heat at the molecular level, creating a sensible cooling effect. Adding moving air helps tremendously.

I can’t imagine how people lived here before electric fans and air conditionings were invented.

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 August 2018 16:20

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