Lingual retes of gray whales precool blood in the tongue to avoid heat loss via counter-current heat exchange.
"Vascular structures for heat conservation in the tongue of the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) are reported here. Numerous individual countercurrent heat exchangers are found throughout the massive tongue. These converge at the base of the tongue to form a bilateral pair of retia. Temperature measurements from the oral cavity of a live gray whale indicate that more heat may be lost through the blubber layer over the body than through the tongue, despite the fact that the tongue is far more vascularized and has much less insulation. These heat exchangers substantially reduce heat loss when these whales feed in cold waters." (Heyning and Mead 1997:1138)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Heyning, J.E.; Mead, J.G. 1997. Thermoregulation in the mouths of feeding gray whales. Science. 278(5340): 1138-1139.
No one has provided updates yet.