Moose stand on skinny little legs in drifts of cold white snow. Why don’t their skinny little legs freeze?
Of course, I had to research this burning question. I mean my legs aren’t much different in size than a moose’s. Well, the moose’ legs are longer but still. If I stood in knee-deep snow without socks or shoes on, my legs would get frostbitten. What is different between my legs and a moose’s?
Video: Yellowstone Moose in Winter
Moose like humans have fat stored in their legs. But, the fat in a moose’s legs is highly unsaturated. Unsaturated fat stays liquid longer at room temperature than saturated fats. This is different between canola oil and bacon fat sitting on your kitchen counter. The canola oil stays liquid but the bacon fat begins to solidify.
Stored saturated fats will stiffen or freeze in cold temperatures. Bacon fat (and butter) will also freeze solid in cold temperatures. Unsaturated fats like canola oil get slushy in cold temperatures, but I don’t think they freeze solid as fast or like saturated fats.
The feet of huskies and wolves also have concentrations of unsaturated fats. In cattle, the unsaturated fat in their legs is called neat feet oil and is highly unsaturated.
Scientist state that it is the unsaturated fats which enable moose to stand in the deep cold snow and their legs not freeze.
I don’t know if the fat in human legs is unsaturated or saturated. I doubt that human leg fat is unsaturated. It is rather disturbing to think about.
We, humans, are very adaptable, but not as adaptable as many animals. We really are some of the weakest beings on Earth. And if we destroy our home planet, then we are the stupidest.
Source: Winter: An Ecological Handbook, page 107.
How Animals Survive the Winter (Havahart website)