Word of the Week- Horripilation

Tomo Clarkson explains the scientific terminology for goosebumps

Tomo Clarkson
4th November 2019
Walking alone on a dark Halloween night, you hear a call in the wind and a shadow dances on a wall behind. Scared, you feel a shiver down your spine and down your arms you feel the horripilation …

Anyway, enough with the atmospheric description, this is science, so let’s talk some. Horripilation, also known as goosebumps, is derived from the Latin word ‘horripilare’, meaning to bristle with hair. It is a subconscious reflex caused by either sudden increases in stress or a rapid temperature change. The function would have allowed other apes to appear larger to scare predators and trap air in their fur to provide insulation. The same reflex can be seen in porcupines that when threatened will raise their quills to deter predators. There is also a surprisingly successful film series starring Jack Black.

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