• Question: why do some animals have fur and some dont?

    Asked by asiansupreme to Anil, Blanka, Cees, Emma, Mike on 28 Jun 2012.
    • Photo: Emma Trantham

      Emma Trantham answered on 28 Jun 2012:

      Animals have evolved fur as a way of regulating their temperature.

      I don’t know if you have learnt this at school yet but mammals (like dogs and cats and even us) have processes inside our bodies that help keep our bodies at a constant temperature. This is different from animals like reptiles – they can only change their body temperature by doing things like moving to a hotter or colder area.

      One of the adaptations that mammals have to help them maintain their temperature is hair. All mammals have hair (even whales and dolphins have little tiny ones although in many species they are too small to see).

      In some species of mammals this hair has developed further into fur (which is basically just lots and lots of strands of hair close together). This probably happened because the animals were living somewhere colder than their body temperature and so they needed an extra layer to keep warm. Fur helps them keep warm by trapping air close to the skin where it warms up and then stays warm, basically giving them a warm jacket made out of air.

      Some animals, especially certain breeds of dogs and cats have really unusual looking fur. Have you ever seen a poodle with its curly fur? Have you seen any other animals with unusual looking fur?

    • Photo: Blanka Sengerova

      Blanka Sengerova answered on 28 Jun 2012:

      As Emma explains, it’s all too do with regulating body heat and whether they need hair depends on whether they live in cold or warm climates. As she also says the mechanism how this works involves the hair standing up and trapping a layer of air to become a bit of an insulator. Did you know that this is exactly what happens when you have goosebumps? – your hair is standing up to create an insulating layer next to your skin, it’s just that we have a lot less hair.

      Do you think humans have evolved to be less hairy as they learnt to make/wear clothes?