Why Do Animals Hibernate? Curious Animal Hibernation Facts To Know! | Kidadl


Why Do Animals Hibernate? Curious Animal Hibernation Facts To Know!

Arts & Crafts
Learn more
Reading & Writing
Learn more
Math & Logic
Learn more
Sports & Active
Learn more
Music & Dance
Learn more
Social & Community
Learn more
Mindful & Reflective
Learn more
Outdoor & Nature
Learn more
Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Have you ever noticed animals curling up when the weather starts getting colder and wondered why?

You might be aware that they hibernate but have you pondered upon why do animals hibernate? What happens to the body of these animals when they sleep so long and how do they consume food and produce energy?

Hibernation is the time of the year when animals snooze deeply to conserve their energy, during which their heartbeat starts to lower, metabolic rate dips, and breathing slows down. Animals can hibernate for varying periods of time ranging from days to months. Similar to polar bears, many species of animals all around the world are known to hibernate such as reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and birds!

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about why do cats like boxes and why do cats stick their tongue out here on Kidadl?

What does hibernation mean?

The hibernation definition states that it is a period during which an animal stays in a dormant state in the winter months. It is quite different from normal sleep. During this period, animals do not eat anything. You might be wondering that they need energy as energy is required to regulate body temperature, pump blood, breathe, and digest food. So how do they exactly survive? Animals are known to eat excessively and store food as fat before they start hibernating. These fat reserves allow them to maintain their energy level as well as stay in their dormant state.

The term hibernation is used in biology to describe only obligate hibernations. There are two types of hibernations, obligate and facultative. Obligate hibernation is a state where animals are known to become inactive every year, during the same months. It is also referred to as true hibernation. During this type of torpor (physical inactivity), the animal's body temperature will fall to match that of its environment, along with a slower heart rate and breathing rate. They may also occasionally wake up and their heart rate and body temperature will become normal, then they will go again into their torpor state. Mammals usually undergo this type of hibernation. Facultative hibernation is undergone by species of animals that hibernate if food is scarce or due to if the temperatures are severe. The time period of this type of hibernation is contingent upon the supply of food and the temperature of the surroundings. Thus, the pattern of this type of hibernation is not as predictable as that of the obligate hibernation. Bears normally undergo facultative hibernation!

Why do some animals hibernate in winter?

Animals are known to hibernate, especially throughout the winter months, usually because of the scarcity of food. Thus, as a countermeasure, animal species hibernate to fight harsh degrees and save their energy. Hibernation allows them to utilize very little energy and survive for a longer duration.

Many animal species have been observed hibernating and their hibernation depends upon certain factors. For example, snakes depend upon the sun to regulate their body heat. Thus, when a snake hibernates, the duration is determined by the climate. Frogs are also cold-blooded creatures that are reliant on their surroundings to regulate their body temperature. Thus, in adverse weather conditions, they also must hibernate to survive. Box turtles are also animals that can't operate in the winter months as they can't produce heat, thus they hibernate as well to survive the cold temperature and negligible food supply. There are also some animals, such as polar bears and tree squirrels, that do not hibernate at all.

Why do warm-blooded animals hibernate?

Animals undergo hibernation for a range of reasons, but their main purpose is to conserve their energy. Warm-blooded animals enjoy an unlimited food supply during the summer and spring seasons, but in winter, food is scarce and cannot be found easily on the cold ground. However, they may or may not hibernate, and when they do so, the time period can vary. Even though humans are of a similar type, we do not hibernate as we have a constant supply of food!

For example, hedgehogs hibernate during the cold months to conserve energy for survival. But they may not necessarily hibernate every year. If they find the weather bearable with sufficient food readily available, they won't hibernate. Dormice (species of mice) are another type of warm-blooded animal that is known to undergo hibernation for approximately five months throughout the colder temperatures, during which they burn their fat supplies to produce energy. They survive this long period by looking for food extensively throughout the summer season and store fat reserves. Bears can also be observed hibernating for three to seven months, during which they don't drink, eat, defecate, or urinate. However, bears do not drop their body temperature and maintain it as it is. Bears are also known to not lose muscles throughout this period, thanks to their fat supplies!

Asian tropical toad in Thailand.

What do animals do when they hibernate?

During the process of hibernation, animals appear to be in a deep state of sleep, also commonly known as winter sleep. During this type of sleep, the animal's metabolic rate drop drops, which leads to a drop in the body temperature as well. It also causes the heart rate and the breathing rate to lower so as to conserve energy.

The metabolic rate of a hibernating animal can be approximately 2% of its usual rate, and the heartbeat can drop from 400 to 11 beats per minute. The animal does not wake up to eat throughout the hibernation duration. The main purpose of hibernation is to reduce the food requirement for a certain amount of time so as to survive under harsh conditions. Cold-blooded animals have been observed to create their own anti-freeze so as to shield their blood and body from getting frozen. Hibernation is not like a usual night's sleep as there are physical changes happening during this kind of sleep. The animal may even wake up feeling tired and might sleep again to regain strength.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do animals hibernate? Curious animal hibernation facts to know! then why not take a look at who do dogs bark at other dogs? Learn cool dog's behavior facts, or why do woodpeckers peck wood? And how to avoid a woodpecker's pecking?

Written By
Rhea Nischal

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?