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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Exercising Elephants Can't Handle the Heat
1 May 2013 6:01 pm
Elephants don't have floppy sun hats, battery-powered misting fans, or ice-cold popsicles to help keep them cool on a hot day. The animals have a lot of mass compared with their skin's surface area and can't get rid of much heat through the skin. Instead, they store that heat in their bodies. So how hot is too hot for a 4-tonne pachyderm? Biologist Michael Rowe (shown, in green, with elephants and keepers at the Indianapolis Zoo) kept a close eye on the temperatures of two Asian elephants, named Panya and Jean, while they exercised. Keepers at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans walked the elephants around a half-mile track in weather ranging from 13°C to 31°C, while Rowe monitored their internal and external temperatures. On hot days, the elephants' sun-drenched skin was above their body temperature, preventing any heat from radiating away. The gigantic animals held on to about 100% of the heat generated by exercise, Rowe reports today in The Journal of Experimental Biology. All experiments were conducted safely, but Rowe projected that a mere 4 hours of walking in the heat of a summer day could be fatal to elephants. The animals avoid overheating by resting during the day, cooling off in water, or shifting their activity to nighttime. Rowe's work may explain how dinosaurs like Edmontosaurus, about the same size as an elephant, dealt with heat—an element of dinosaur behavior that can't be deduced from fossils.
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