Show Details


May 29, 2007

A listener asks: How is hibernation possible?


Surviving a season-long snooze. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Allison Creamer asks, "How is it possible for animals to hibernate?" We turned to Hannah Carey, president of the American Physiological Society. She says hibernating animals like ground squirrels don’t just go to sleep; they’re able to slow down their body functions dramatically.

HANNAH CAREY (American Physiological Society and University of Wisconsin-Madison):
Their hearts beat normally about 200 or 300 times per minute, and when they’re in their hibernating state their hearts are beating just a few beats per minute. Same thing with breathing. So they keep on going, they’re still alive, their systems are still functioning, but they’re turned down to a very low level.

She says how their bodies manage this slowdown is still a mystery. If you have a science question, don’t sleep on it—call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.