Bison are amazing. We "locals" take them for granted but they have some incredible adaptions for winter survival. I spent 4 days recently in Yellowstone, with temperatures well below zero...I must've said out loud "I'm cold" at least a 1000 times. And then I look at the bison and feel guilty for complaining. They have some pretty incredible adaptations for surviving extreme temperatures during the Yellowstone winter. Here is your biology lesson for the day: Countercurrent exchange. A lot of ungulates have this adaptation....so do birds like trumpeter swans. Basically, the blood running through the veins, carrying blood back to the heart, has cooled significantly. So, the veins run very close to the arteries where warm blood is traveling away from the heart. The warmth of the arterial blood is transferred to the colder venous blood, but the arterial blood still maintains enough heat to keep extremity tissues from freezing. So, bison legs stay warm enough. However, if you see a bison without a tail.....it might've froze to the ground when they were lying down, and ripped off as they stood. Ouch! I hope you are more "wowed" by this lesson than my sophomores. Stay warm out there friends!
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