Hibernation is a state of no-activity in animals. A few animals hibernate during winter. These animals go into deep sleep. They have little metabolic activities so consumption of energy is less. The temperature of the body drops and so does the heartbeat and breathing rate. Animals do not consume food during hibernation. They have excess food stored in their body in the form of body fat. Many birds and mammals also hibernate. Hibernation is a way of adapting to extreme climatic conditions.
Hibernation is that period of the year when animals sleep. No loud noises can wake them up. The animals can be touched and moved without their knowledge during hibernation. In actual hibernation, an animal appears to be almost dead as there is absolutely no activity. It is hard to find food during winter and animals adapt themselves to hibernation to beat the winter cold. The season before winter is fall and most of the animals that hibernate consume more during this period. This extra food is converted into body fat and stored in the animal body that is used for simple metabolic activities that occur during hibernation. Different animals choose different places for hibernation. Some choose burrows; some choose nests while the others choose dens.
The body temperature of cold blooded animals remains in sync with that of the outside temperature. Their body temperature remains in sync with that of the outside temperature whereas the human body temperature is constant at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If the outside temperature drops to 30 degrees, the body temperature of cold blooded animals also comes down to 30 degrees and if the temperature rises to 100 degrees, their body temperature also rises. Hence these animals can escape the extreme climatic conditions by hibernating. A few cold blooded hibernators are – earthworms, bees, snails, lizards, snakes, mud turtles, frogs and toads. These animals come out of hibernation once the outside temperature is favorable and comfortable. Bees generally come out of their hibernation when their favorite flowers blossom. Earthworms dig holes of around 7 to 8 feet in the ground to go into hibernation and come out when the weather is favorable. Frogs hibernate under water.
Some warm blooded animals hibernate to adapt themselves to the harsh and extreme climatic conditions. During hibernation, the animal’s body temperature comes down to match the outside temperature. Some warm blooded animals do not hibernate continuously; they wake up in between and eat a little, walk around and then go back to sleep. Such animals store their food in their caves or burrows. A few examples of warm blooded hibernators are bats, chipmunks, hamsters, raccoons, prairie dogs, lemurs, hedgehogs etc.
Scientists are into research to induce hibernation artificially in humans. This would help in saving lives of many sick people who cannot receive immediate medical attention or whose treatment needs to be postponed due to various reasons. Artificial hibernation can be compared to induced coma. It would also help humans when going on interstellar travel (travel between the stars in space).