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Experiments in Insulation

December 30, 2011 Posted by: Sarah Hayes

This summer, one of the many visitors to the kennels was Susan Smith, a teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in Lawton, OK. She took home with her a sample of fur from one of our dogs, Spur. We recently received a letter from her as well as graphs from her classes. In her letter, Susan said, "Our class did an experiment using husky fur to determine if their fur would enable ice to melt slower than other items. We covered four cups with different kennels fur, two cups with my dogs' fur, and one cup each with foil, black paper, and left one cup plain." She used fur from our kennel as well as two others in Alaska, and fur from her two dogs Rosie and Rascal, a blue heeler and border collie respectively.

Here's one of the graphs, courtesy of Catarina Meyer (Spur is the light pink bar at the bottom):

fur graph

Susan added, "I hope you enjoy looking at our data, as it was a great activity to do with kids who, 99% of them, have never seen sled dogs." Thanks so much to Susan and her students!

Fur is one of the many physical attributes that we breed for in our dogs to help them stay warm in the winter. With the temperature dropping below freezing, many people are concerned about the well-being of our dogs, what with them sleeping outside in the snow. Not to worry - our dogs are equipped with a two-layer fur system that keeps them warm and dry throughout the cold winter months. The inner downy layer (what Spur contributed to the study) is soft and very insulating, like a down jacket or fleece. Our dogs shed this out every summer and we actually collect it to give to a local lady who spins it into yarn. The outer guard hairs are the longer coat surrounding the downy layer, which stays year round. It sheds water and snow, and acts more like a raincoat.

aliqsi curled up

For more information on cold weather adaptations in dogs, check out:

http://www.expeditionsamoyeds.org/dogtemp.html

-SH



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a lake reflecting a tree-covered hill

The vast landscapes of interior Alaska are changing. Large glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting and woody plants are spreading. Comparison of "then-and-now" photographs and data from major vegetation monitoring should allow detection, understanding and potential management of these changes.