Our warming climate is changing how animals hibernate • Earth.com

Our warming climate is changing how animals hibernate

02-20-2022

Today’s Video of the Day from the American Chemical Society explores how climate change may affect hibernating animals, and whether more animals will begin to hibernate in a warmer world.  Hibernation is a type of dormancy in which animals decrease their activity. During this period, animals usually experience reduced body temperatures, lower heat rate, and a slower metabolism.

There are two main types of hibernation. Obligatory hibernation involves a fixed yearly rhythm. Facultative hibernation takes place when environmental conditions change, such as when the days get shorter, temperatures drop, or food becomes scarce. 

Animals hibernate as a result of extremely hot or cold temperatures. They build up fat stores so that they can survive dormant periods that can last for months at a time. 

According to ACS, climate change may prevent animals from being able to build up their fat storage. Warmer summers and droughts will lead to lower food availability. This means that facultative hibernation patterns will be especially disrupted by climate change. 

The genes needed for dormancy and hibernation are actually found in many animals, including humans. These genes could be switched on when the environmental conditions, such as climate or food availability, require an animal to hibernate. 

ACS reports that scientists have already started to see animals like squirrels and bears emerge from hibernation early due to warming winters. As a result, they are waking up when their food sources are not ready, or when there is more competition for food. 

Video Credit: American Chemical Society 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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