Huddling vs. Cuddling: Two Types of Warming

Tri Beta Club

The Tri Beta Biology Club is here once again to teach you a fun life fact, just in time for Valentine’s Day! With this cold winter upon us, and especially those cold nights, it would be most appropriate to share ways to stay warm. As we are social mammals, one excellent method is huddling, not to be confused with cuddling. Huddling (not the kind in sports) is an exact scientific behavior defined as “crowding together” or “nestling closely.” Isn’t that cuddling? No. Cuddling is a recreational or emotional behavior; huddling is necessary for survival.
Huddling is seen throughout many organisms that need to stay warm. A prime example is none other than Emperor Penguins, which live in the coldest place on Earth (other than Alamosa), Antarctica. During the coldest time of the year, male penguins incubate their single egg for two months while standing in the bitingly cold wind. How do they stay warm? Why, they huddle of course. The penguins crowd together, nestling closely to share each other’s body heat. This prevents the penguins within the huddle using their own energy stores to stay warm. The penguins on the edge may get cold, but eventually this huge mass of penguins rotates around to keep any single penguin from freezing.
If the penguins do it, why can’t we? You may have even noticed that if you’re in a huge pile of your friends watching a movie you don’t get very cold. Everyone around you is the same temperature. The ambient temperature is your body heat, so you don’t have to spend any energy maintaining your heat. There are many other ways to keep warm in the winter, but since we humans lack fur, feathers, and don’t hibernate, behavioral mechanisms are the way to go. Luckily, we have things like coats and indoor heating otherwise we’d never be able to have any alone time–we’d be stuck in huge huddling groups.
Ladies, you may have been looking for some hunk to cuddle with to keep you warm, but you are going about it all wrong. Don’t ask to cuddle, ask to huddle. You can even explain that it’s a scientific behavior for survival. What cruel man would tell you no if it was a matter of life or death? So remember, on those cold nights don’t try to cuddle for warmth, just huddle.
If this topic interests you and you would like to know more about animal mechanisms for survival, check out a physiological zoology class—or come to a Tri Beta meeting. We do various activities like fundraisers, conferences, and community service. We also talk about the goofy parts of science. So if there’s a subject you’re interested in, you would like more information about the club, or have a suggestion for an article topic, email us at is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet