Peripheral Thermoregulation: Foot Temperature in Two Arctic Canines

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Science  03 Mar 1972:
Vol. 175, Issue 4025, pp. 988-990
DOI: 10.1126/science.175.4025.988


Arctic foxes and gray wolves maintain their foot temperature just above the tissue freezing point (about -1°C)when standing on extremely cold snow, or when the foot is immersed in a -35°C bath in the laboratory. Proportional thermoregulation stabilized the subcutaneous temperature of the foot pad to a precision of ± 0.7°C (largest deviations). Selective shunting of blood-borne body heat through a cutaneous vascular plexus in the foot pad accounted for more than 99 percent of measured heat loss from the pad surface. Maximum energetic efficiency is achieved because the unit of heat exchange is located in the pad surface which contacts the cold substrate rather than throughout the pad.