Every living organism possesses some special traits which enable it to survive environmental variations. One important change encountered by organisms is that of temperature. Animals are divided into two groups based on their ability to cope with this change. Organisms which can regulate the temperature of their body and keep it constant despite the changing temperature of the surroundings are known as warm blooded animals. On the other hand, animals which lack this ability are known as cold blooded organisms. The latter are termed as poikilotherms animals while the former are known as homotherms. Examples of homotherms are mammals, such as human beings, primates and whales. Whereas, the list of cold blooded creatures includes reptiles – such as alligators, crocodiles, turtles, lizards and snakes – as well as amphibians – including frogs, salamanders and toads.
The following discussion contains more information about these two types of organisms.
The major difference between warm blooded and cold blooded animals is that the former maintain a constant body temperature while the temperature of the latter varies according to the surroundings. It is important for warm blooded animals to keep their body temperature constant so that various chemical reactions taking place internally can proceed properly. A number of enzymes used in these reactions are sensitive to temperature and, therefore, require a constant body temperature. On the other hand, different chemical processes taking place in the body of cold blooded animals can proceed despite temperature variations.
Temperature Control Mechanisms
Warm blooded animals exhibit natural control mechanisms to keep their body temperature constant. However, cold blooded animals lack these mechanisms and, therefore, their temperature changes according to the temperature of their environment.
The natural temperature control mechanisms used by various warm blooded animals are listed below.
Mammals are a type of warm blooded animals which produce sweat in order to keep their body cool in warm environments. As the sweat evaporates from the surface of the body, a cooling effect is produced.
Presence of Hair or Fur
Many warm blooded organisms possess hair or thick fur on the surface of their body. It helps them stay warm in cold environments. Air trapped between the hair or fur acts as an insulator which prevents body heat from escaping.
The act of shivering produces heat which helps in maintaining a constant body temperature in cold surroundings. Shivering consists of muscle movements which lead to the generation of heat in the body.
Certain warm blooded creatures, such as birds, migrate to warmer environments when the weather turns chilly. This is also a natural way of preventing changes in the body temperature. On the other hand, migrating to cooler regions helps in surviving during hot surrounding temperatures. Certain organisms instinctively move towards shade or other cooler regions in order to beat the heat.
None of the above mentioned temperature control mechanisms are exhibited by any cold blooded animal.
Warm blooded animals generate heat during chilly temperatures by turning body fat into energy. The chemical reaction which breaks down fat results in the production of heat. Therefore, the nutritional requirements of warm blooded animals are greater as compared to cold blooded creatures. They not only need to eat more but also feed more. This helps in storing enough fat in the body which can be used whenever required.
Level of Activity
Another important difference between warm blooded and cold blood animals is their level of activity during different types of weather. Warm blooded animals remain active whether the surroundings are hot or cold. On the other hand, cold blooded organisms exhibit a lower level of activity in cold temperatures. This is because their muscle activity depends on certain chemical reactions which are faster in warm surroundings as compared to chilly ones. Therefore, cold blooded animals become sluggish when the weather turns cold.
Since warm blooded animals can naturally regulate their body temperature, they can survive in different types of environments regardless of the surrounding temperature. Therefore, they have a wider habitat range as compared to cold blooded animals. The latter fail to survive in chilly environments. On the other hand, warm blooded organisms are found in all types of environments, including the extremely chilly arctic region.
Vulnerability to Parasites
Warm blooded animals offer a favorable temperature for the growth of various types of microorganisms. This difference between warm blooded and cold blooded animals is actually a disadvantage for the former. Warm blooded animals, such as mammals, offer a warm and constant temperature to bacteria, viruses and fungi to flourish. This leads to various types of diseases. On the other hand, animals which are cold blooded evade these infections through a constantly changing body temperature which impedes the growth of parasitic microorganisms.
The features discussed above differentiate warm blooded animals from cold blooded organisms. Both groups of animals exhibit their own mechanisms for survival.
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