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Animals at the extremes: Polar biology
The extreme challenges of life in the polar regions require the animals who make their...
The extreme challenges of life in the polar regions require the animals who make their habitat there to make many adaptations. This unit explores the polar climate and how animals like reindeer, polar bears, penguins, sea life and even humans manage to survive there. It looks at the adaptations to physiological proceses, the environmental effects on diet, activity and fecundity, and contrasts the strategies of aquatic and land-based animals in surviving in this extreme habitat. This unit builds on and develops ideas from two other 'Animals at the extreme' units: The desert environment (S324_1) and Hibernation and torpor (S324_2).
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- define and use, or recognize definitions and applications of each of the bold terms;
- outline the special features of the polar regions as a habitat and list some contrasts between the Arctic and the Antarctic;
- describe some effects of daylength on feeding, fat deposition and reproduction in arctic animals;
- explain why the environmental controls of appetite, activity level and fecundity are essential adaptations to living at high latitudes and describe some physiological mechanisms involved;
- describe some adaptations of fuel metabolism and bone formation to dormancy in bears;
- describe the metabolic control of prolonged fasting in breeding polar bears and penguins;
- explain the use of comparative studies to identify anatomical and physiological adaptations to thermal insulation in aquatic and terrestrial endotherms;
- describe some adaptations of the blood, respiratory system and muscles of fish to the polar environment;
- explain the role of fatty acid profiles in investigating the diet of polar vertebrates.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Polar biology
- 2 Environmental regulation of physiological processes
- 3 Natural feasting and fasting
- 4 Thermal insulation
- 5 Polar ectotherms
- 6 Conclusion
- Unit questions
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Animals at the extremes: Polar biology
This unit is the third in a series of three on Animals at the extreme. In order to get the most from it you should have previously studiedAnimals at the extreme: the desert environment (S324_1)andAnimals at the extreme: hibernation and torpor
This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Animal physiology (S324) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Natural History courses or view the range of currently available OU Natural History courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 1st June 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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