Hibernating Bears Studied in Unprecedented Detail
Five bears have been the subject of the most detailed hibernation study ever undertaken in animals of their size.
Researchers reporting at the AAAS meeting in Washington say the bears’ metabolism drops to just 25% of its normal level – much more than their drop in body temperature would suggest.
The bears remain in a state of reduced metabolism even weeks after awakening.
The research may in time inspire new techniques that could prove useful in emergency medicine.
Hibernation is widely held to be a means for animals to reduce their energy use during the coldest seasons.
The body temperatures of small mammals drop to near-freezing levels, with metabolism dropping in some cases to just 2% of normal rates.
But such small creatures also rise from their slumber briefly and repeatedly during the hibernation season, at a substantial energy cost.
Biologists have found that the reduction of temperature and metabolism in these creatures follows a neat relationship – metabolism dropping by half for each 10C drop in temperature.
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