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All living things have unique ways of cooling themselves off

Us humans being endothermic, we do not automatically adjust to our environment's temperature. We have to sweat a lot. When the temperature rises, salty liquid comes out of our skin's pores to keep cool. Compared to other animals, humans sweat the most: around 20-80 cl per day. Horses and camels are also animals that sweat. But as it happens, it is an unusual trait. Nature has provided its living creatures with a wide variety of quirks to adjust to high heat.

Consider, for instance, many furry animal's body temperature is controlled by panting. However, other animals, such as lizards, amphibians, and insects, regulate their temperature in yet another way, ectotherms. They control their temperature by their surroundings. Besides basking in the sun and cooling off in the shade, for example bearded dragons and crocodiles also draw in cold air with their mouths. Another way for reptiles to manage their body temperature is hibernation. The process involves slowing down the metabolism to conserve energy in order to survive longer periods of time, when the animal has not the means to keep warm during winter.


Pee: 'Snakes don't sweat despite what some people say

So to be clear, reptiles cannot sweat and do not have sweat glands. And because they do not excrete water through their pores, their skin is often smooth, supple, and dry, contrasting the myth that their skin is slimy and wet. In an interview ( that aired on PRI's Science Friday with Ira Flatow, Rory Telemeco, a postdoctoral scholar at Auburn University in the Department of Biological Sciences, says reptiles, amphibians, and insects instead of sweating cool off using a wide range of traits. "One of the most effective things to do is select a cooler or warmer area and alternate between them." Insects deal with heat differently. While they are highly tolerant to high temperatures, they can also overheat and become dehydrated like any other animal, Telemeco says. "Butterflies are a good example." To keep from overheating themselves, they stop flying and moving their wings before they become overheated and unable to perform anything.


Lizards have thick, scaly skin to help keep them hydrated in hot climates

For a lizard or any animal that lives in a hot, dry climate, sweating would be disadvantageous because they would have to replenish the water in their bodies somehow. Reptiles, particularly land-dwelling amniotes, are based on the ability to retain water, Telemeco explains. It is for the water-keeping powers that they have such thick, scaly skin. It allows them to stay hydrated. Note, however, that reptiles also cool off by evaporation. Desert-dwelling lizards open their mouths when they are exposed to potentially dangerous temperatures. Their mouth membranes are incredibly moist, so evaporation occurs across them. As a result, the brain will cool off, and the head's temperature will decrease.


Temperature gradient in a reptile enclosure can help keep them happy and healthy

Reptiles depend on the different wild living elements to regulate their temperature and metabolism and stay happy and healthy. Because of that, we, as reptile keepers, need to ensure the enclosure is at a range of temperatures. Providing a temperature gradient within the vivarium can help accomplish this, especially in a captive environment where animals can choose what temperature they prefer. The vivarium should have warm and cool ends.

For warming, ensure the animal has access to at least one heat lamp, water, and possibly a fan for cooling off.


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