Animals that hibernate

Hibernation is a state of dormancy that many animals go through that is characterized by the lowering of their body temperatures, slower breathing patterns, and drastic slow down of their metabolic rate. It normally occurs in cold winter climates. Some people loosely use the term “sleep” for hibernation, but implying that the animal is sleeping is a common misconception. When an animal goes into true hibernation, there is no movement and it may actually seem to be dead. It may periodically come out of the hibernating state, but then quickly returns. It can take an animal quite awhile to come out of hibernation when the season is over. When an animal sleeps, there is movement and brain activity.

Hibernation is a way for animals adapt to the changing climate. In some cases, they only way they can survive extreme colds is to build winter dens or nests that will keep them out of the cold temperatures. Another reason for the hibernation is that food may not be available during these months. Most hibernating animals begin to consume extra amounts of food during the fall months.

Hibernating animals survive through the weeks or months of hibernation off the fat and carbohydrates that have been stored from the additional food. During the dormant state they go into, often referred to as torpor, they survive the frigid colds by drastically lowering their body temperature to very near the outside temperature. This reduces their body’s need for energy because their heartbeat and breathing rate are also significantly slower. They can even ingest water and protein from their own organ.

There are a few hibernators that store some food in their dens and burrows. These animals do occasionally come out of hibernation in the winter long enough eat. Then they go back into the hibernating state.

Warm-blooded animals that hibernate include:

Conspicuously missing from the list are bears. Another misconception is that bears are hibernators. Not all scientists put the bear on this list because they are not considered “true hibernators”. They wake frequently during the hibernation period and their metabolism does not slow nearly as much as that of animals considered to be true hibernators. Bears can even give birth during the winter months and this necessitates some degree of wakefulness in order to take care of the cub. Often, the term “denning” is used rather than hibernation when referring to bears.

Animals like marmots, woodchucks and groundhogs are very typical hibernators. They tend to live in cold climates and they prepare for the winter by eating and storing fat and live completely off that. They will completely seal their boroughs with rocks, clay, and even feces. They hibernate as families.

Estivation versus Hibernation

Some cold-blooded creatures go through their own form of hibernation known as estivation. This is also based on climate and environment, but these animals and insects live in hot and dry climates. Estivation provides protection from high temperature and drought.

As with warm-blooded animals, estivators experience slower heartbeats and breathing and metabolism slows down. Since they are cold-blooded, their body temperature will stay the same as the temperature of the air around them. When the extra hot and dry weather arrives, these animals find a place underground to sleep. Some typical animals that estivate are:

  • Bees
  • Earthworms
  • Frogs and toads
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Hedgehogs

List of animals associated with hibernation

Gould's long-eared bat
mountain pygmy possum
western European hedgehog
long-eared hedgehog
Indian hedgehog
Brandt's hedgehog
Daurian hedgehog
collared pika
snowshoe hare
black-tailed jackrabbit
fat-tailed dwarf lemur
black-tailed prairie dog
brown lemming
hazel dormouse
Siberian flying squirrel
northern birch mouse
southern birch mouse
Washington ground squirrel
Franklin's ground squirrel
hoary marmot
Olympic marmot
least chipmunk
eastern chipmunk
Townsend's chipmunk
desert pocket mouse
This list has been generated automatically and therefore can contain errors, please keep that in mind.
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