Cold Weather Adaptations

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  • Plastic tuborca_spyhopping-noaa
  • Ice water (need lots of ice!)
  • Vaseline pouches (double walled baggies with vaseline between walls)

Forming a Hypothesis

  1. What problems have to be overcome for animals to survive in cold water?
  2. What possible advantage is there to living in the Arctic or Antarctic?
  3. How long does it take for adaptations to form?


  1. Take turns within your group. Take your hand, and hold it underwater- how long you can hold it in the water?
  2. Repeat the experiment, this time putting one of the vaseline pouches on. Were you able to hold your hand under for longer?

What Happened?

Some animals migrate between warm breeding waters and cold feeding waters near Antarctica and in the Arctic. Do you know how whales keep warm when they are in very cold water?  They have a thick layer of fat under their skin called blubber. The blubber keeps them warm and also stores nutrients their body can use when they are in waters where there isn’t much food. Other marine mammals like seals and sea lions also have blubber.

Blubber helps keep animals warm because it acts as an insulator. An insulator slows down the transfer of heat, keeping the animal’s body heat from escaping into the water and protecting it from the cold.

The vaseline packs should have allowed you to keep your hands in the icy water much longer than when they are bare.  Vaseline acts just like blubber!

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