ASHEVILLE – Today’s compelling questions concern hibernation, water needs, and other insipid biological processes. Have a question for Answer Man or Answer Woman?Email Interim Executive Her Editor Karen Her Chavez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your question may appear in a future column.
question: I know there are many species in our area that hibernate at different levels during the cold winter months. Whatever it is, I know it takes advantage of fat storage. How can these animals be active for so long without water? And while they are burning calories, they are not getting the essential vitamins and minerals that affect cellular health. Hmm. How come those substances are not needed at this time of year? Finally, is your metabolism so low that there is essentially no bladder or bowel excretion during this period?
answer: The answers to all three questions vary by species, so let’s focus on two of the only hibernating animals here in western North Carolina: bears and groundhogs.
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Bears hibernate differently than rodents and bats. This is widely considered to be the “normal” type of hibernation. This was posted in April 1999 by Mark Jones, a former black bear biologist and the commission’s current black bear and fur animal biologist, according to a blog post by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Colleen Orfenbüttel sent to The Citizen Times in response to a reader’s question. .
According to Jones, hibernation is a metabolic change that results from lack of food, cold temperatures, or both. During that change, heart rate slows, blood vessels constrict, shivering is suppressed, breathing slows, and oxygen consumption slows.
The first big change between bears and groundhogs is body temperature. According to the post, groundhogs can lower their body temperature to near freezing, while bears only lower his body temperature by 10-15 degrees.
Returning to your question, this change is significant. This means that groundhogs and other animals with low body temperatures are much less likely to wake up when disturbed. Bears, on the other hand, can abandon their dens if serious problems arise.
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So groundhogs sleep all winter and aren’t awake to eat, drink, or remove excrement, right? Hmm, that seems wrong. The bear sleeps all winter, and in regions further north he does not leave his burrow for up to eight months to feed, water and defecate. Groundhogs, on the other hand, regularly get up and do all these things.
“In many respects, the ability (of bears) to hibernate for long periods without feeding or excreting waste can be traced back to ‘normal’ hibernation, with periodic awakenings to move around and feed.” It’s more advanced and remarkable than what was thought,” Jones said in the post.
So how do bears live so long without drinking and producing waste? metabolize into both water and energy calories to maintain fat during long sleeps.
Essential vitamins and minerals are drawn from muscles and organs during hibernation and rebuilt from a substance called urea found in the bear’s stored urine. , bears can lose up to 33% of their body weight during hibernation. Female bears that give birth during hibernation can suffer even more losses.
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“A buildup of waste that carries some process would kill most animals if they weren’t awakened from hibernation to handle normal bodily functions. However, after a long period of inactivity, a strong, healthy Get out of your burrow,” Jones said in the post.
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Scientists are studying how bears can recycle waste and use it to rebuild bones and organs, both posts said. This could one day help humans treat kidney, heart, and bone ailments, or send humans on long-distance space exploration.
Christian Smith is the general correspondent for the Asheville Citizen Times. Questions or comments? Contact us at RCSmith@gannett.com or 828-274-2222.