Kleptotherms and Body Temperature with Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser on Radiolab

Key Takeaways

  • Biologically, one of the most energetic things mammals do is warm their bodies
  • Kleptotherms are creatures that engage in heat theft – snakes do this well
  • 98.6 degrees is supposedly normal but that was decided in the 1800s and is actually false
  • Human temperature can change depending upon:
    • Sex- women have higher temps
    • Weight – heavier people have higher temps
    • Height- taller people have lower temps
    • Hormone levels can change temperatures
    • Time of day can change temperatures
    • Younger people have higher temps
    • Where the temperature is taken – armpit, mouth, rectum – also affects the temp
  • Researchers say that the average human temperature is actually 97.5 degrees
  • Doctors found through testing that many of their schizophrenia patients had:
    • Lower than normal blood pressure
    • Their patients had lower T3 and T4– markers of temperature regulation which meant they got cold faster

Intro

Lulu MillerRadiolab‘s long-time contributor and producer, is the former co-host and co-founder of NPR’s Invisibilia.

Latif Nasser, is the Director of Research for Radiolab and host of The Other Latif.

Books Mentioned:  Heartwarming  by Hans Rocha IJzerman – how our inner thermostat made us human

The Economy of Action

  • Animals need to take in more energy than they exert
  • Biologically, one of the most energetic things mammals do is warm their bodies
    • Getting warmth from another creature is 60% more efficient than producing it on your own
  • Humans enjoy huddling for warmth
  • Humans for hundreds of years relied on each other for warmth – nine people would sleep in a bed as recently as a hundred years ago

Kleptotherms

  •  Kleptotherms are creatures that engage in heat theft
  • Snakes have tricks for staying warm
  • One species of amphibious blue snakes will slither out of the water and find a burrow of birds to curl around them for warmth – prioritizing being warm overeating
  • Male Gardner snakes pretend to be female so that other males will try and mate with them – taking advantage of the friction

The Psychology of Warmth

  • Around the world, psychologists noticed their patients were bundling up- no one knew why
  • One young man, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, found that he felt better when bundling up with a hat and coat even in the summer – he craved the layers to shield himself from the world and it felt natural to him
  • Doctors found through testing that many of their schizophrenia patients had:
    • Lower than normal blood pressure
    • Their patients had lower T3 and T4– markers of temperature regulation which meant they got cold faster
  • Some patients reported bundling because the world felt cold to them
  • Schizophrenia is a disease that when untreated has a neurotoxic effect on the brain causing structural damage

The Cyberball Experiment

  • Two other computer players invite another player to play “pass the ball”
  • Then suddenly those players reject that individual by no longer playing with him
  • These rejected players reported “feeling” colder after they were excluded from the game
  • Researchers took the temperatures of the rejected players and they actually recorded lower body temps!

Core Body Temperature

  • Temperature guns have become commonplace in work, bars, restaurants – your temperature is literally your passport into a place
  • There is a big temperature range, 92-98 degrees, that is considered in the normal range
  • 98.6 degrees is supposedly normal but that was decided in the 1800s and is actually false
  • In the 1850s a German doctor started using temperature to track human body changes over the course of a patient’s disease – he found different diseases had different temperature courses
  • The average temperature of healthy patients was 37 degrees Celsius which translates to 98.6 F

There Is No One Healthy Human Temperature

  • Human temperature can change depending upon:
    • Sex- women have higher temps
    • Weight – heavier have higher temps
    • Height- taller people have lower temps
    • Hormones can change temperatures
    • Time of day can change temperatures
    • Younger people have higher temps
    • Where it is taken – armpit, mouth, rectum
  • One new theory is that the greater and more expansive your social network, the higher your core body temp will be
  • Researchers say that the average human temperature is 97.5 degrees
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Notes By EWerbitsky

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