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Blood flow regulates heat exchange: alligator


The skin of the alligator regulates blood flow. / Hans Hillewa.. / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Skin of alligators regulates heat exchange by increasing blood flow.

"Alligators possess several thermoregulatory abilities that may be of interest to architects. First, alligators have the ability to drop their body temperature when they are not receiving enough oxygen. This seems to offset changes that would otherwise occur in ventilation, oxygen consumption, acid-base balance, and lactate levels. Second, alligators warm their bodies much more quickly than they cool off. The ratio of rate of heating to rate of cooling is dependent on body mass, but is generally 2-3. The ratio is maximal when the alligator is 5 kg, indicating that there is an optimal size for control of heat exchange. The speedy rate of warming in alligators can be attributed to increased blood flow in the skin. During cooling, blood flow does not change. In fact, the results of one study suggest that blood flow is not at all involved in cooling. When blood flow to the appendages was occluded, the rate of warming dropped significantly, while the rate of cooling did not change. There may be an optimum body size for the control of heat exchange. The ratio of rate of heating to rate of cooling is maximum when the alligator is 5 kg. Alligators warm their bodies up to twice as fast as they cool down. There is greater blood flow in the skin during warming than during cooling." (Courtesy of the Biomimicry Guild)
About the inspiring organism
Med_4309766585_76117c1b3f_b Alligator, Gator, American alligator, Florida alligator, Mississippi alligator, Louisiana alligator.
Alligator mississippiensis DAUDIN 1802
Common name: Mississippi-alligator

Habitat(s): Wetlands
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Some organism data provided by: TIGR Reptile Database
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_LC IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Architects may be able to use the formula for optimum size and fluid flow when designing buildings for efficient thermoregulation.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction

Dept of Biology
Scott Turner
Branco LGS; Poertner HO; Wood SC. 1993. Interaction between temperature and hypoxia in the alligator. 265(6): 1339-1343.
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Turner JS; Tracy CR. 1985. Body size and the control of heat exchange in alligators. Journal of Thermal Biology. 10: 9-12.
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Turner JS; Tracy CR. 1983. Blood flow to appendages and the control of heat exchange in the American alligator. Physiological Zoology. 56: 195-200.
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