By Sharnelle Kan
When the temperature drops, pulling on a cozy sweater and drinking hot chocolate seems like a great way to pass the time. Humans aren’t the only ones who want to stay out of the cold though. When winter arrives, it can be hard for animals to find food, so instead they hibernate. Hibernation is when an animal’s heart rate slows, their body temperature lowers (sometimes to below freezing!) and they rest their bodies until it is warm enough to look for food.
DID YOU KNOW?
- When bears hibernate, they’re not just sleeping! Their brainwaves are similar to the patterns made when they’re awake.
- Bears, particularly the American black bear, can last 100 days without eating, drinking, excreting waste or exercising. Wow!
- Have you ever wondered why chipmunks have such big cheeks? They use their cheeks as pouches to carry food into their nests, where they store it for the winter.
- When chipmunks hibernate, their average heart rate of 200 beats per minute slows to 5 beats per minute!
- Scientists have found a substance called HIT, which stands for hibernation inducement trigger, in the blood of animals that hibernate. If blood is taken from a squirrel that is hibernating and injected into an active squirrel during the spring, that squirrel will go into hibernation.
DID KNOW YOU?
- Cold-blooded animals cannot warm themselves, so they must find environments with warmer temperatures during the late fall and winter.
- Frogs and turtles bury themselves deep in the ground and get oxygen from the mud.
- Snakes can also hibernate in the ground, but sometimes they’ll make shelters out of rotting logs.
- Goldfish that live in outdoor ponds hibernate in the winter. They float near the bottom of the pond, away from the ice at the surface. The greatest danger to them is not freezing though: it is the accumulation of their waste and decaying plant matter.
- Earthworms, like frogs and turtles, bury themselves around 2 metres into the ground where the temperatures are a few degrees above freezing. Other small animals like slugs and snails must find a place to keep warm whether it is under rocks, caves or deep in the ground.