We love studying animals! And animals in Winter are simply fascinating! I am so excited to introduce to you our Animals in Winter Unit: What is Hibernation? It is one of three studies we will be learning about. Take a look at how animals hibernate, which animals hibernate and the definition of hibernation, among other interesting facts.
What is Hibernation?
During the winter, some animals adapt to changes in their environment by hibernating. Hibernating is a long extended sleep that is necessary for the survival of the animal when food is scarce during the cold season. Animals living in cold climates are more likely to hibernate, although that isn’t the case for all cold-weather animals (polar bears, for example, don’t hibernate).
During hibernation, an animal goes into a prolonged sleep state, almost like a coma. The animal’s heart rate slows, and its temperature drops, allowing the animal to use energy than normal. The prolonged sleep conserves energy through the coldest part of the year.
Most animals that hibernate spend the fall gorging on food getting nice and fat. During the winter, the animal lives on this fat reserve until the weather warms and the animal can find food once more.
Here are some great books on hibernation!
How and Why Animals Prepare for Winter (How and Why Series)Animals in Winter (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science)Hibernation (Patterns in Nature series)Scholastic Reader Level 2: HibernationWhat Is Hibernation? (Science of Living Things)Bear Snores On (The Bear Books)
Animals that Hibernate Facts
- We often think of bears as the only animals who hibernate, but in reality, tons of animals hibernate. Even some species of fish have periods of hibernation.
- Hibernating animals have a special kind of fat called “brown fat,” which is unlike other forms of fat. Most brown fat is stored in the backs of the animals and their stomachs.
- Hibernating animals reduce their metabolism to as little as 2 percent of their former energy use.
- Hibernating animals can drop their body temperature to as low as 27 degrees (that’s below freezing!)
- Some animals have one long hibernating sleep, while others sleep for several weeks and have periods of activity between naps.
- Hibernating lizards can drop their heart rate to as low as 1 beat per minute (their regular heart rate is 30 beats a minute).
- Some bear species will pack on 30 pounds of fat per day to prepare for hibernation.
Names of Animals that Hibernate
If you’re wondering which animals hibernate during winter, you’ll find a list of the most common hibernating animals below:
- Wood frogs
- Deer mice
- Ground squirrels
- Prairie dogs
There is a longer list of animals (and insects) that hibernate. In our post, 23 Printable Pictures of Animals that Hibernate you will see a list of 23 animals that hibernate that will enrich your studies. For over to the post to go get your free printables!
Animals use hibernation as an adaptation to survive when food is scarce. This adaptation keeps the animal alive in a reduced-energy state until warm weather returns. When the animal wakes, it is typically starving, which can be dangerous for humans. If a human approaches a hibernating animal and wakes it, the animal will likely attack, particularly if it is a predatory animal such as a bear.
More Hibernation Resources
Did you know that insects also hibernate? They do! Above, you can see where insects can hibernate to find a good spot to find food, get cozy and rest up for a time. Here are some great resources on hibernation!
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Take a look at other posts about animals that migrate, hibernate and adapt. There are some wonderful printables that are free for you on this blog!