Hair, Fur, Feathers & The Functions of Each
Did you know that one of the most important purposes that our hair serves is to keep us warm? Just like our hair helps to keep us warm, animals have fur, and birds have feathers that help to keep them warm. Warm blooded animals need to stay warm in cold weather so that they do not get hypothermia or frostbite which can be dangerous. Hypothermia is basically when your body becomes too cold and frostbite is when your skin and other tissues begin to freeze. Hair, fur, and feathers also have another important job and that is protection. Learn how humans, animals, and birds use their hair, fur, and feathers to stay warm, below.
How Hair Keeps People Warm
While we have blankets, clothes, and other things that can keep us warm, hair is one of the body's main sources of insulation. The hair on the head especially provides heat insulation and also helps the body cool down. When sweat starts to evaporate from wet hair, it can help to cool you down. Did you know that the hair on your head also protects you from the sun? If you didn't have hair on your head, it would be much easier for ultra-violet rays from the sun to damage your skin. The hair on your body actually helps to keep your internal temperature regulated but you will still need to wear a coat and a hat when it's cold out. Wearing a coat and a hat will keep you safe from dangerous things like hypothermia and frostbite.
How Fur Keeps Animals Warm
Just like our hair keeps us warm, and protected from the sun, fur does the same thing for animals. An animal's fur will trap a layer of heat between the skin and the fur, keeping the animal warm. If an animal gets cold, they will actually get goosebumps just like people will. This helps the fur to stand up and create that layer of heat. When animals are too warm, their fur will lay flat against their skin so that the heat can escape and they can cool down. Some animals have special fur or hairs that can protect them. Have you ever seen a porcupine or a hedgehog? They have special hairs that are covered with something called keratin that makes them hard and can protect the animals from predators. Keratin is the same thing that your fingernails and toenails are made of.
How Feathers Keep Birds Warm
Birds do not have any hair or fur to keep them warm; instead, they have feathers. Feathers keep birds warm and also help insulate them from the water. Feathers are important for keeping birds warm and dry but they also have some other important jobs. Sometimes they are used to help line a bird's nest or to insulate eggs that have been laid. Feathers are also important in protecting birds. They are a great form of camouflage which makes them hard to see and protects against predators. Birds such as ducks can coat their feathers in special oils so that they stay dry when in the water. Feathers serve lots of important jobs for birds.
Humans, birds, and other animals with fur are all mammals. Mammals are warm-blooded and it is important for them to maintain a certain body temperature to be healthy. Hair, fur, and feathers are very important in keeping people and animals warm. We can go to the store and buy hats and coats but you probably won't see an owl or a polar bear at the store buying a sweater. Instead, animals have to rely on their fur and feathers to keep them warm and protected from cold weather. If you want to learn more about how hair, fur, and feathers keep humans and animals warm, visit the pages below.
- Let's Talk Science - How Do Animals Stay Warm In The Winter?
- How Animals Stay Warm - An Activity
- Home Is Where The Heat Is
- Science Questions - Why Do Animals Have Fur?
- Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears - Keeping Warm
- Critter Corner - Fun Fur Facts
- All About Birds - Feathers and Plumage
- Feathers, Flyaways and Fast Food - Keeping Warm
- Feather Biology - 23 Functions of Feathers
- The Wild Classroom - Bird Feathers
- Why Do Humans Have Body Hair?
- Learn About Polar Bear Fur and Skin