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Adaptation in Animals in Cold Climate

Survival of an animal is to fit in with the environmental conditions of its habitat. This is known as adaptation. All living organisms can adapt to and cope to their particular habitat's environmental conditions like air, water, soil, light and temperature. Depending on the habitat the animals lives in; it may have to adjust itself to changes in its environment.

The most notable changes in the environment are the increase and decrease in temperature. Winter is the stressful time of the year. The main hardships during winter are the lack of food and the food availability factor. The lack of food occurs for two reasons; one with the reduction of plant life activity. Plants are the primary food source in almost all food chains. The second reason is the availability factor. The food sources may be buried under the snow or ice.

The main factor to adaptation in winter is managing the energy reserves is the key to survival. There are many ways to manage energy reserves through combinations of morphology, habitat and behavior and physiologically by body chemistry and control of metabolic rates.

There are three main ways animals adapt to cold climate. These are migration, dormancy and adapting active lifestyle. Adaptations in animals in cold climate can be in the following way.

Migration: Most of the animals chose to migrate between seasons. Birds like the arctic tern travel about 10,000 miles between winter and summer habitats. A migration always does not need to be long distance movement. Some animals like the white-tailed deer move to areas that are warmer or survivable. Some species of reptiles and amphibians move to place underground or under water to avoid freezing temperature. Fishes migrate to different waters.

Dormancy - Dormancy is the period of biological rest or inactivity. This period is characterized by reduction in growth or development and suspending many metabolic processes. There are several forms of dormancy in different taxonomic groups.

Torpidity - It is the reduction of body metabolism, by controlled low oxygen consumption rates and lower body temperatures. It is accurately the control of metabolism which is restricted to warm-blooded animals. There is a different physiology in cold-blooded animals in response to adverse conditions. In some animals the state of torpidity is the response to lack of food and environmental conditions. Some species show seasonal torpidity. In the Northern states hibernation is the form. Aestivation is the kind of torpidity seen in very hot and dry conditions.

Animals in the cold climate undergo metabolic changes that allow them to sleep. Hibernation is the controlled, reduction in the rate of metabolism in the winter. The body temperatures of these animals are maintained a few degrees higher than the temperature of the environment. Most of the hibernating animals are small animals that have usually a high rate of metabolism. Animals wake up from hibernation during the late winters or early spring as they maintain only sufficient amount of reserved fat to carry them through the winter season.

In case of the bears they do not hibernate actually. Their body temperature drops for only a few degrees and the rate of metabolism is reduced only to moderate rates. Bears give birth in the winters; bears can be easily aroused in winter and then drop back into the state of dormancy.

In cold blooded animals dormancy is the reduced state of metabolic activity which is controlled by environmental conditions. Cold-blooded animals become dormant during winter and they lack to control the internal environment of their body. Many animals move to sheltered places and they also undergo chemical changes to prevent their tissues from freezing. Some animals’ can tolerate certain levels of ice between their cells with common chemical changes.

Insects undergoing dormancy in winter show specialized chemical adaptations to survive. Some insects have the ability to resist freezing and some can tolerate freezing to certain temperature.