The Science Time program at the Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Public Library explored hibernation last week, and, piggybacking on that theme, this week not only explained but also demonstrated just how arctic animals remain warm during the coldest seasons.
Library clerk Heather Heilman introduced the virtual program by saying, “This week we are talking about arctic animals ... The arctic is very cold, so we’re going to look at some of the adaptations ... that they manage to stay warm in these cold, cold areas.
Heilman then began an experiment that would demonstrate the ability of these animals to retain their warmth. Materials needed were a large bowl of ice water, a large, gallon-sized plastic baggie, and lard (Crisco would work just as well).
She first submerged her hand in the ice water to see how cold it was without any additional insulation. “Yes, “she said, “it is very cold ... I would not do well in the arctic.” Removing her hand from the bowl, she donned a latex glove (this would provide a thin layer of protection, as well as make clean-up a bit easier).
Heilman next spread over her gloved hand a layer of the lard, spreading it between her fingers and covering the entire glove, front and back. As she did this, she explained to viewers that lard is a type of fat, and arctic animals have that extra layer of fat on their bodies to help keep them warm during hibernation, giving them extra insulation.
After her hand was covered with the lard, she placed into the baggie and plunged it back into the ice water. Because of that fat layer, her hand was, indeed, protected from the cold.
“The lard on there is making a huge difference in the temperature ... of how cold it feels on my hand,” she told her audience. She explained that an animal’s fat layers are “super thick,” giving them even more insulation and protection, which is why they eat as much as possible before hibernation — the bigger the fat layer, the better the insulation.
“This is a really great way for you to kind of see for yourself what a difference it makes to have that layer of blubber,” she concluded.
Watch the video on the library’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/harkerheightspubliclibrary/videos/1768189556681814