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Rubber Blubber Gloves

What keeps whales and walruses warm in bone-chilling water? One thing is the thick layer of fat under their skin, called blubber. Blubber acts as insulation between the animal's inner organs and the chilly ocean.

pilotwhale

Blubber does such an amazing job of keeping a whale warm that when this animal is really active, it overheats! To cool off, the pilot whale takes in water through the blowhole on its head. The water travels inside its body, picking up heat. The water is then blown out the blowhole, taking the excess body heat with it.

pilotwhale

Blubber does such an amazing job of keeping a whale warm that when this animal is really active, it overheats! To cool off, the pilot whale takes in water through the blowhole on its head. The water travels inside its body, picking up heat. The water is then blown out the blowhole, taking the excess body heat with it.

walrus

The layer of fat just below the skin of the walrus can be close to 10 centimeters (4 inches) thick! This animal needs to eat large amounts of food, like clams and shrimp, to keep up its blubbery good looks. 

Marine mammals that live in extremely cold environments usually have a thicker layer of blubber than those that swim in warmer places. An animal's behavior can also affect the thickness of its blubber. Whales that swim slowly tend to have a thicker layer of blubber than faster-swimming whales. Why do you think this is? (HINT: Think of how you feel when you're running in cold weather compared to when you're standing still in it.)

Girl with Rubber Gloves

What is it like to be covered in blubber?

Try this experiment!
Image Credits:

pilot whale, by Adam Li for NOAA/NMFS/SWFSC / Public domain; walrus on ice, USGS; girl in gloves, courtesy of AMNH.