(CBS News) "This is not just another cute animal video compilation. This is Science." So says the journal Nature. And they're absolutely right. We're all familiar with a wet dog shaking to get dry. But what about other furry animals? How quickly do these mammals need to shake to dry off? And how effective is it really? Scientists set off the find out. And the fact that this study can be turned into an adorable animal video? A happy bonus.
David Hu and his colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology studied 16 different furry species with the help of a local zoo. The animals tested include dogs, mice, tigers and bears. Researchers found that each species tunes its shaking to maximize dryness while also conserving energy. Unsurprisingly, smaller creatures shake much faster than larger species.
The act of shaking involves creating enough force to overcome the surface tension of water on fur. Large animals are able to generate this force with only a few shakes, while smaller species must shake faster to compensate.
Some furry mammals have loose skin, which further aids them in shedding water. Hu explains that losse skin "whips the fluid around much faster than if the skin was tight." This can generate centrifugal force anywhere between 10 and 70 times that of gravity. This is also the reason most animals will close their eyes when shaking: the water can fly off fur so fast it may cause damage.
The ability to rapidly shed water is vital to animals living in cold, wet climates. Water that clings to the body may cause hypothermia. Researchers hope that studying how animals stay dry may help to keep water off of man-made equipment. Hu suggests devices could be built with some measure of elasticity - similar to the loose skin of furry animals.