By Wendy Langhans
January is a good month to be endothermic. Tuesday, the temperatures in the Santa Clarita valley reached a sunny 79 degrees. But two weeks earlier, we were blanketed in snow. So any creature that can regulate and maintain it’s own body temperature, regardless of the weather, has a built-in advantage in our unpredictable valley.
All mammals, including humans, are endothermic. Our blood remains at a warm and relatively constant temperature – 98.6° F (37° C). But why THIS temperature? Why not a little cooler, say 30° C? Or a little warmer, say 40° C? Maintaining a constant temperature comes at a metabolic cost, so a lower temperature means spending less time hunting and/or foraging for food (and navigating the Trader Joe’s parking lot). A higher temperature, on the other hand, would require even more midnight raids on the refridgerator.
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Last month, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine published a study that may give us a clue. They think it has to do with fungi. Not the kind of fungus found in moldy bread that sat around too long. Not the kind of fungus we eat, such as mushrooms. But rather, the kind that medical mycologists refer to as pathogens, the kind that cause human diseases. The kind that cause ringworm, athlete’s foot and Valley Fever.
There are an estimated 1.5 million described fungi species. “Tens of thousands of fungal species infect reptiles, amphibians and other cold—blooded animals, but only a few hundred harm mammals.” “Far fewer of these species will specifically cause disease in people.” Why? Because fungi fail to thrive as the temperatures rise. Earlier work by Dr. Casadevall showed “that the number of fungal species that can thrive and therefore infect an animal declines by 6 percent for every 1° C rise in temperature.”
When these scientists did a cost/benefits analysis, comparing the cost of extra food consumption needed to maintain body temperature against the benefits of protection against fungi, they found that the optimum temperature was 36.7° C. According to their study, “Our 98.6° F (37° C) body temperature strikes a perfect balance: warm enough to ward off fungal infection but not so hot that we need to eat nonstop to maintain our metabolism.”
So the next time you’re tempted to cheat on your New Year’s resolution to avoid mid-meal snacks, just remind yourself: “I DON’T need to eat to avoid fugal infections!” Yeah – that doesn’t work for me either.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, February 12, 1:00-3:00 PM, at Whitney Canyon. Wildlife Crossroads at Whitney Canyon. Big or small, wild animals need large ares of open land to find food, mates and homes for successful survival. Whitney and Elsmere Canyons are at the crossroads of wildlife corridors in the Santa Clarita area. Meet in the parking lot for this easy hike. 2 hrs. For directions and trail maps, click here.
Saturday, February 19, 8:00-10:00 AM, Morning Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon. With our local deciduous trees bare, now is a great time to view exposed nests and homes of our feathered friends. Beginners are welcome. Bring binoculars, easy walk. 2 hrs. For directions and trail maps, click here.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at email@example.com for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, January 5, 12, 19 & 26.
Saturday mornings, January 8 & 22.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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