Why do our hairs stand on end when we’re cold?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q&A - TOBY GRA­HAM, SHREWS­BURY

When we’re chilly, tiny mus­cles con­tract at the base of each hair to make them stand on end, dis­tort­ing the skin to cre­ate goose­bumps. All mam­mals share this hair­rais­ing trait, called pi­lo­erec­tion, of us­ing hair or fur to trap an in­su­lat­ing air layer. The process may have helped to keep our hairy an­ces­tors warm, but to­day’s hu­man body hair is too fine to be of much use. Shiv­er­ing does a far bet­ter job of warm­ing us up through rapid mus­cle con­trac­tions.

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