Concept of hibernation challenged: Bat species is first mammal found hibernating at constant warm temperatures
The researchers monitored the activity of the bats during this period and found that they neither fed nor drank, even on warm nights when other bat species were active in the same caves. The researchers used heat-sensitive transmitters to measure the bats’ skin temperature in the caves. Then in the laboratory, they measured the bats’ metabolic rates and evaporative water loss at different ambient temperatures.
The bats’ average skin temperature in the caves was found to be about 71.6̊F. Both bat species reached their lowest metabolic rates at cave temperatures (about 68̊F). During hibernation, the bats also exhibited long periods of suspended exhalation.
“Until recently, it was believed that there was no mammalian hibernation in Israel, apart from hedgehogs,” said Prof. Kronfeld-Schor. “But this discovery leads us to believe there may be others we don’t know about. Scientists haven’t been looking for incidences of hibernation at warm temperatures. This is a new direction for us.
Maybe it is best to see hibernation not simply as a response to low temperatures, as the word itself implies, but as a way of conserving energy generally. It may indeed be more common than we think.
Could it be that humans in particular can’t hibernate easily because our brains are a large, high metabolic area, and can’t just shut down for months at a time. Thoughts?
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