In Search of ponies: Climate control

Nose to tail — dig out a sweater and coat, possible gloves and a scarf as well.

Stretched on the side, legs curled toward the belly — maybe a sweater, definitely a jacket.

On the stomach, legs stretched forward — Long sleeves will do.

All four legs in the air, belly to the sun — Most definitely short sleeves.

Sprawled in a shade sliver, tongue flopped to the side – sleeveless, shorts and flip flops.

All one needs do is look to the dogometer to gauge the weather on any given day.

And it is pretty darn reliable, unless of course one absolutely thinks they must see exact numbers to know what, through yonder window breaks.

Yet through said window, just a glance at the napping poses as they're struck can tell everything needed to know before venturing out.

With the belly at the center of it all, a dog will either coil around its mid-section to keep its heat, or stretch as far as possible to let it all out, using the in-betweens to moderate the less extreme.

It makes sense, after all, humans are much the same, curling tightly under blankets when cold and sprawling into a chair when hot.

It turns out, animals are pretty good climate gauges across the board.

Take for instance the recent blizzard that hit the area.

With the sun shining bright and the day balmy, many a human looked around and rejected predictions of the storm of the year, thinking snow an absolute impossibility.

However, a couple hours before dark, horses began to huddle together, putting their back ends toward the northwest even though the air was peaceful.

And the birds roosted early, ducking into dense trees well ahead of the setting sun.

Perhaps they got the emergency text message just like everyone else, but regardless of how they knew, they certainly didn't question it.

Not only do animals seem to sense pending weather events, they also have some pretty incredible responses to weather that can be as accurate as the red bulb.

Take for instance ants.

Astronomer Harlow Shapley began noticing the speed of ant trails would increase in the heat and eventually developed a formula using their speed to tell the temperature with remarkable accuracy.

While many animals shiver when they're cold, honeybees turn it into a family affair, shivering en masse to increase the temperature of the hive.

They, along with some moths, also shiver right before flight to heat up their flight muscles and the Hawk Moth is able to warm itself in flight with its oversized wings.

Goosebumps don't do much for humans, other than serve as a visual indication of cold (or fright) but in more hairy mammals, in addition to being a reaction to startling events, in cold temperatures the rising hair traps air and creates insulation against cold.

Some fish have an "antifreeze" like substance in their blood stream to help them withstand cold.

And the Temperature Size Rule dictates that animals living in cold regions produce offspring that become larger as adults and vice versa, producing offspring smaller in adulthood in warm areas.

However, one thing all warm-blooded creatures (humans included) have in common when it comes to dealing with cold is food, and lots of it.

With a ratio of heat loss proportional to the surface area of the body, the bigger the animal, the more food it requires to stay warm.

So rest assured, it's perfectly normal to pass the winter looking a little fluffier and spending long periods curled in a ball and/or eating everything in sight, and, there's no need to worry if the dog does it too.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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