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Seasonal Science: Hibernation Myths

3 minutes

(female narrator) 'Tis the season for the long winter's nap, But what most of us know about hibernation isn't the entire story. Seasonal Science brings you "Hibernation Myths." Myth number one: Hibernation lasts all winter. Lights out from November until March isn't really how it works. Hibernation is a form of torpor, the lowering of metabolism-- respiration, heart rate, and temperature-- that animals use to conserve energy. But there are different types of torpor. Multi-day torpor, what most of us call hibernation, is when animals spend days, weeks, or even months in a lower metabolic state. Daily torpor is when animals lower their metabolism for a couple hours daily to conserve energy-- a metabobolic siesta. Depending on the species, torpor can last from a couple of hours to a couple of months. Myth number two: Torpor is for the bears. Bears aren't the only ones who spend the winter in torpor. Torpor is used across the entire animal kingdom as a strategy to conserve energy. From birds to mammals-- like bats and primates-- to frogs to fish to insects. Yes, bears included. And last but not least: Animals torpor in cold, snowy weather. Yes, the bears and badgers and squirrels all display torpor during their snowy winters, but it isn't restricted to the winter wonderland. Many tropical animals sit out their winters too when food and water are scarce. Torpor is used by animals on every continent, from penguin chicks in Antarctica to lemurs in the tropical rain forests of Madagascar. So, as winter ends and Punxsutawney Phil comes out of hibernation to see his shadow, you might want to cross-reference with the lemurs of Madagascar before you put away that winter coat. Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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What physiological changes happen as animals hibernate? During hibernation, animals lower their metabolism including respiration, heart rate, and temperature in order to conserve energy. This episode shows the relationship between regulating life-sustaining functions and maintaining homeostasis. Part of the "Seasonal Science" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Seasonal Science
Episode 1
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 2
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 4
2 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 5
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 6
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 7
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12