School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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  • Environment: the area (environment) where living things or groups of living things normally live. Also called the natural environment... more
  • Habitat: the place where an animal or plant lives.
  • Tolerate: to allow or endure something or someone that is unfavorable. In medical terms, it is a person's ability to take a drug or treatment without serious side effects or discomfort.

Hot Pockets

Frozen pine coneHave you ever stood out barefoot on the concrete in the summer heat? Your first step doesn’t feel so bad, but after a few minutes it feels like your feet are melting into the sidewalk. That’s because the temperature that your feet can handle depends on whether you will experience it for five seconds or five minutes. In other words, the duration of exposure is just as important as the temperature itself.

This idea is important for building mechanistic models, because sometimes environments become very hot or very cold for short periods of time. Just because an animal can’t tolerate a temperature for a long period doesn’t mean that it can’t tolerate this temperature for shorter periods. Similarly, just because an animal can tolerate the average temperature of a habitat doesn’t mean that it can tolerate the extreme highs or lows.

Exploring the amounts of time that animals can tolerate certain temperatures enables scientists to create more detailed pictures of the conditions that a species needs to survive. And, when predicting how animals will react to climate change, scientists need to consider whether animals will experience the highest and lowest temperatures in their environments for longer or shorter periods.

photos of different climates


Additional images are from Wikimedia. Barefoot image by Yarkoski1012.

Bare feet on concrete

Try walking on a concrete when it is a hot day. One step might not seem too bad, but soon you notice it is like walking on hot coals - blisters and all.

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by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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Bare feet on concrete

Try walking on a concrete when it is a hot day. One step might not seem too bad, but soon you notice it is like walking on hot coals - blisters and all.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.