Surviving Extremes

Many of us are familiar with the term hibernation, but what actually is hibernation? It is an adaptation exhibited by a variety of animals to survive winters where food is scarce or conditions are harsh. When hibernating, an animal’s metabolism slows down so that they can survive the winter months without eating. But do animals only hibernate during the winter? And are all animals true hibernators?

No! Many animals in hot climates aestivate, which is a form of hibernation. Through aestivation, animals living in climates with extreme heat or drought are able to escape the heat by burying themselves in the ground as they await cooler temperatures or the return of the wet season.

Another form of hibernation is torpor, or short-term hibernation. Body temperature and metabolism slows temporarily for these animals. Animals that undergo torpor may do so anywhere from daily torpor to torpor lasting a few weeks or months. Bears, the most famous “hibernators” are not actually “true” hibernators. Bears undergo torpor – light hibernation – and are actually easily awoken from their slumber. Humming birds are another example of animals that undergo torpor daily!

Are there any critters in Nevada that hibernate or aestivate? To learn more, check out this list of 10 animals that hibernate from the Conservation Institute.

Denise Peterson

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