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How Do Animals Stay Warm in the Cold?

How Do Animals Stay Warm in the Cold?

January 23, 2020

Winter is in full swing and we’ve been experiencing some historically cold days in our region, which means it’s a great time to learn about the northern hemisphere Arctic and southern hemisphere Antarctic animals. These animals have various adaptations to keep them warm. For example, polar bears have two thick layers of fur. They also have a thick layer of fat called blubber. In this experiment, we’ll investigate how blubber works.

Items Needed:

  • Ice cubes
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Plastic wrap
  • Crisco or Vegetable Shortening


  1. Fill the bowl with the ice and water.
  2. Test the water with a hand – it should be very cold! This represents the cold waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.
  3. Put a glove on your hand and ask an adult for help if needed.
  4. Scoop out vegetable shortening with your gloved hand, then make a fist.
  5. Ask an adult to wear gloves and help pile on more vegetable shortening to your hand until your fist is covered in a thick layer of shortening.
  6. Wrap your fist in plastic wrap to limit mess.
  7. Place your covered hand in the ice water and note the difference from the first time you placed your hand in the water! How long can you keep it in the water before you feel the cold?

So That’s How Polar Animals Stay Warm?

Shortening is fat and acts like blubber. Blubber is a layer of fat beneath the skin found in walruses, seals and polar bears, among other Arctic and Antarctic animals. Fat keeps the warmth in and the cold out, acting like an insulator. This is important for animals that live in the cold polar regions on Earth.

What other ways might animals stay warm in the cold? You can expand on this experiment by filling a ziplock bag with other insulating materials and putting your hand in the bag and dipping it in the water. Try experimenting with cotton balls, butter or feathers. What materials work best? What happens if you combine multiple insulators?