How does a Lion maintain homeostasis?
Homeostasis in any living organism is the body’s attempt to maintain a constant and balanced internal environment. This helps in the proper functioning of the body during times of harsh environmental conditions.
So, maintaining homeostasis is actually to maintain the internal body temperature, pH level, oxygen, glucose concentration, mineral ions, waste removal, etc. toward a relatively stable equilibrium leading to a proper sustainability state for the biological body.
Lions maintain homeostasis by following a number of ways. They are basically nocturnal, male lions having manes that are less long and thick, having a quick digestive system, and also by sleeping a lot during the day.
Lions have well-adapted themselves over generations with strengthening their ability to live in harsh hot climates like those of Africa’s and Asia’s grassland, savanna, dense scrub, and open woodland habitats.
They are usually nocturnal and have excellent night vision. By doing so they can conserve a lot of energy.
So, they basically hunt during the night, dawn, and dusk time which helps them maintain their internal body temperature by staying away from scorching day sun.
They do also sleep so much during the daytime (at least 13 to 16 hours a day) in the shade just to conserve their energy, and also to avoid the heat of the day sun to keep themselves cool.
When lions stay asleep, they conserve a lot of energy by lowering down their blood pressure.
But, while hunting, walking, running they in order to maintain quick response, their body is seen to be well adapted to keep pretty high blood pressure. This helps them to regulate their blood pressure.
Also, you must note that the lion’s heels don’t touch the ground when it walks. This protects their feet from touching the hot ground and keeps their feet cool which in turn helps to control the body’s temperature from overheating.
This helps them to lower down their blood pressure while they are walking, running, or hunting. This keeps them away from excessive dehydration, dizziness, fainting, or falling asleep during the time they are active.
Their very best response to thermoregulation is by simple heat exchange across their skin when they are resting under the shade. This process is called convection in thermoregulation.
Convection is the process of losing heat through the movement of air or water molecules across the skin. Lions have adapted to do this very very well.
To thermoregulate themselves from the day heat they can be often seen sleeping under the canopy of the trees in the direct shade.
They do also shift positions throughout the day to avoid direct sunlight. This also helps them maintain their internal body temperature by keeping themselves cool.
They can be also seen sleeping up on the trees to take advantage of cool breezes to keep themselves cool, but such instances are rarely seen. Other big cats like leopards, cheetahs, etc. do this very well.
When they are in a good mood and complete relaxation and with trust towards their environment and siblings, they are seen sleeping on their backs with all their four legs placed up in the air with their backs for support.
So, sleeping on their backs help them from exposing their thin-skinned stomachs to the hot ground.
They can also be seen licking their forelimbs. So, licking their forelimbs may also serve a thermoregulatory function as forelimbs are highly vascular, and so licking them may help cool their blood.
Their digestive and urinary tract is so profound that they can maintain an internal pH balance between 6.0 and 6.5 to maintain a healthy urinary tract. And, with pH balance between 1.0 to 2.5 to maintain a good and quick digestive system.
Also, note that they have a very short digestive tract with a very short stomach, which is very well-adapted for digesting the meat and even the bones very easily and quickly.
So, they have well-adapted themselves to live in some of the hot habitats of Africa’s Savanna and Asia’s regions that are characterized by dry hot seasons for a long time during the year.
They prefer grassland, savanna, dense scrub, and open woodland habitats with extremely hot and dry seasons for a long time during the year.
So, for doing so, they have well adapted themselves by maintaining homeostasis, and they do this very very well. This helps them to gain their body’s equilibrium state altogether.
There’s more to learn about how does a lion maintains homeostasis. So, just keep reading and learning…
What it actually means by homeostasis in lions?
Just like all other animals of the animal kingdom, lions too maintain the body’s equilibrium by balancing its internal body temperature and other biochemical processes going on inside their body, just in order to reach and keep up with the body’s steady state.
Just, for example, to get rid of the heat of the day sun, they have a behavioural adaptation to sleep for more than 13 to 16 hours during the day and hunt mostly at night time.
This behavioural adaptation helps the lions to keep their body cool during the day and maintain homeostasis by keeping their internal body temperature stable.
Here, this was just an example of thermoregulation which is the maintenance of internal body temperature to a stable state.
Homeostasis is not only about thermoregulation but also about maintaining the blood glucose level, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide level, body pH level, blood calcium level, blood and nerve sodium concentration level, and a lot lot more just in order to keep the internal environment of the body in a balance with the external environment of the surroundings.
As lions live in some of the harsh and dry environments, it is a must for them to keep up with the environment and sustain with ease.
So, homeostasis for lions is a way that they have developed through various physical, behavioural, and biochemical adaptations over the years of evolution just in order to maintain a balanced equilibrium state of their body to cope up with the harsh environment that they live in.
They just like other animals, constantly perform homeostasis with the help of the receptors, the command center in the brain, and the effectors of their body.
These three systems work together to regulate, monitor, and adjust the animal body’s equilibrium.
The job of the receptors is to receive information about the changes in the external environment and transmit it to the control center of the brain.
The control center receives and processes information from the receptors to the effectors so that homeostasis can be maintained.
So, for doing so, their body works from the inside to maintain the homeostasis of the biological body and its various processes with respect to the changes held in the external environment by Negative Feedback loops.
It is a must for them to regulate their internal body environment by homeostasis to process/conserve energy and ultimately survive.
Thus, homeostasis is very much important for their living body.
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How do lions deal with the heat to regulate their body temperature?
Lions follow various behavioural, physical, and structural adaptations in order to deal with the heat and regulate their body temperature to a balanced homeostatic state.
By definition, it is stated that adaptation is a characteristic of an organism that improves its chances of surviving and/or reproducing.
So, here in this particular case, lions have followed some adaptations and so have very well adapted to maintain proper homeostasis by thermoregulating their internal body temperature which helps them to ultimately survive and reproduce during times of extreme heat conditions.
This thermoregulation (a type of homeostasis) is necessary to deal with and cope up with the heat that is prevailing in the surrounding environment.
Thermoregulation is a process that allows the body to maintain its core internal temperature. All thermoregulation mechanisms are designed to return the body to homeostasis which is a state of equilibrium.
Lions deal with the heat when the surrounding temperature becomes very hot by getting the stimulus of heat through the skin cells (receptors) which get passed to the Thermoreceptors present in the hypothalamus, spinal cord, internal organs, and great veins.
These Thermoreceptors act as the Control Centers of the brain, which gives stimulation to the skin cells and blood vessels to lower down the blood pressure.
As the blood pressure gets lowered, it triggers a reflex action that maintains homeostasis through thermoregulation. This process is supported by the biological process of vasodilation.
Vasodilation is a response to being too hot. The process includes the widening of blood vessels at the skin surface.
This widening of blood vessels results in an increased blood flow to those skin parts where it is cooler — away from the warm inner body. This lets their bodies to release heat through heat radiation.
This was all how they deal with the heat when they are exposed to the scorching heat during the day time.
But mostly, they being nocturnal try to avoid coming out of the shade in the daytime, and so they tend to stay away from the scorching day heat.
They become more active at night and sleep during the day under the shade of the trees or also up above the ground on the tree branches to keep their body cool.
Also, the male lions have well-adapted themselves in having manes that are less lengthy or underdeveloped so in order for them to bear the heat. For example: You will find this adaptation on the Tsavo Male Lions in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park.
Do lions sweat?
Yes, lions do sweat but not that so much as we can sweat. They do have very few sweat glands that don’t help much in cooling and are just enough to lubricate their skin surface only.
As in our body, we have a lot of sweat glands. So when the external temperature gets very hot we thermoregulate ourselves by sweating which in turn helps to release heat and maintains the optimal body temperature.
And here in the case of lions, as they have very few sweat glands they are seen to rest a lot and only hunt at night time.
By doing this, they conserve their energy by resting/sleeping during the daytime and becoming more active only at the night time when it is cooler. In this way they keep themselves cool.
They can be usually seen sleeping in the shade of the trees or on high rocks where they find a cool blowing breeze.
Also, they do pant just like dogs a lot during the day. They can be seen panting at a rate of at least 150 to 200 times a minute to cool themselves down during very hot conditions.
Panting (meaning to pant) is actually a biological process for removing the hot moisture-filled air out of the body, by gradually increasing the moisture evaporation in the mucous membranes of the nasal passages, mouth, and lungs, thus leading to the cooling of their bodies from inside out.
They can also be seen laying on their backs with their limbs facing up in the air so that they don’t expose their loose belly thin towards the hot ground.
So, lions without their much ability to sweat a lot, naturally follow these adaptation techniques to keep themselves cool by maintaining a balanced optimal body temperature overall.
What would happen to the lions if they could not maintain homeostasis?
If lions could not maintain homeostasis, then there will be an intense disruption in their body functioning and working as their body won’t be in a balanced equilibrium state with the environment.
This can gradually lead to various abnormal metabolic functioning in the organism and its organs. This can even lead to a state of disease.
Failing to maintain homeostasis can lead to a condition of various deficiencies or toxicities in the body.
Various deficiencies occur when the body gets imbalanced as the various beneficial pathways are blocked and cells lack adequate quantities of nutrients to function properly.
Also that various levels of toxicities are known to occur when the body gets imbalanced due to the increase in various toxic substances that don’t get removed from the body. This resultantly poisons and hampers the body’s cells and organs.
In harsh environments, if homeostasis could not be maintained then the lions won’t be able to conserve energy and so they can even die out of hunger.
They can also get dehydrated with increased blood pressure leading to cardiac arrest, brain damage, or even death.
Their body temperature, fluid balance, blood pH, and oxygen tension can altogether alter leading to an unsteady state.
Right from the controlled release of calories due to the metabolism of food or fat stores, to the cells’ sustaining by resorbing electrolytes in the kidney and intestine for maintaining neutral blood pH will all get unbalanced.
This can cause low energy in the body, improper digestion, blurry eyesight, and they won’t also be able to walk, run, and hunt perfectly.