Adaptive Thermogenesis in Sea Otters (CER)

Sea otters live in extremely cold waters of a North Pacific Habitat. They do not have blubber, like many other aquatic mammals. How do they stay warm?

Students examine research that explores how sea otters use a unique method of staying warm: adaptive metabolic remodeling. After reading a short passage describing sea otters and their habitat, students analyze a graph. The data and information is based on a Science Journal article.

The graph explores a BMR, basal metabolic rate, in otters and compares it to a predicted BMR in other mammals. Another line shows proton leak in sea otter muscles.

A graph illustrates hypermetabolism, a condition where the mitochondria in the muscles leak protons as a method of keeping warm. Students then answer several questions related to the reading and follow up with a CLAIM – EVIDENCE – REASONING (CER).

This is a short exercise I use with a broader unit on animal anatomy and homeostasis. I usually do this unit at the end of the first semester and it includes a survey of animals, a dissection, and various readings and case studies. How much is covered depends on how much time I have left in the semester. I find this unit to be one that can keep them engaged despite the distraction of the holiday season.

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