The sweat glands of many mammals aid thermoregulation through evaporative cooling.
"Sweat glands play an extremely important part in temperature control. Shaped like a tube, knotted at the bottom and opening out of the epidermis at a 'pore', sweat glands secrete a colourless liquid which evaporates on the surface of the skin removing excess heat…There are two kinds of sweat glands: apocrine, associated with hairy skin, and eccrine, associated with smooth. Apocrine glands seem to be concerned mainly with producing scented secretions, and are progressively replaced in the more advanced mammals - gorillas, chimpanzees, and especially man - with eccrine glands, whose secretion dilutes and spreads that of the apocrine glands." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:79)
"From the evidence of comparative mammalian physiology, we suggest that the very common apocrine sweat gland is not primitive but is both specialized and efficient as a cooling organ in an animal with a heavy fur coat and relatively slow movement. The remarkable thermal eccrine sweating system of humans probably evolved in concert with bipedalism, a smooth hairless skin, and adaptation to open country by the ancestors of H. sapiens." (Folk and Semken 1991:185)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
- Folk GE; Semken A. 1991. The evolution of sweat glands. International Journal of Biometeorology. 35(3): 180-186.