What do these animals have in common: chipmunks, ground squirrels, echidnas, possums, hedgehogs, hamsters, skunks, bats, prairie dogs, marmots, and badgers? Answer: they all hibernate. This means they endure cold temperatures by sleeping through them. Ground squirrels and woodchucks are true hibernators. When the winter comes, their body temperature and heart rate drop to the point of unconsciousness. It will take hours to wake them.
Just What Kind of Animals Hibernate?
Hibernation is not limited to mammals. Some fish, amphibians, and even insects survive the winter by this means. Cold-blooded animals also deal with extreme heat through a similar process called aestivation. This often involves burrowing into the mud for protection but their metabolism is also reduced.
How Can Bears Hibernate for So Long?
The bear, however, is unique. In fact, some scientists are not willing to admit they hibernate in the true sense. Instead, they call their method of tolerating the winter denning. During this time, bears do not eat or drink and avoid bathroom visits by chemically changing their own wastes back into proteins. But though their metabolism slows during winter, it doesn’t slow to nearly the same degree as most other hibernating animals. In fact, they awaken several times during the winter and the females often give birth. Humans who come upon the ‘hibernating’ bear learn how quickly the animal can be fully awake!
Could a Chemical inside a Bear Heal Osteoporosis?
If we humans lay around for several months, our bones and muscles atrophy, i.e. they wear away because of disuse. (This is why proper exercise after an injury is so important.) Another danger is that dissolved bones could increase calcium in our blood to a fatal level. However, bears remain strong and healthy during this extended inactivity. Recently scientists have discovered a chemical they think causes the bears to lose no bone or muscle fiber during hibernation. The hope is that it could be used in treating people suffering from osteoporosis.
Can Nature Be Used to Solve Problems?
Here is yet another example of reverse engineering. Scientists look to nature for ways to solve problems. If they cannot solve them with purposeful experiments, how is it logical to think the problems were solved by random accidents as evolution teaches? How much easier it is to believe that our wise God masterminded everything in nature as it is!