Tropical HibernatingThose of us who live in temperate climates are familiar with the fact that there are a variety of animals that hibernate to survive our cold winters. Animals like bears have a lot of unique problems to solve when they hibernate for months at a time. Having enough fat to live on, getting rid of wastes, and avoiding predation themselves are just some of the things that have to be overcome. We have talked about the design of systems to do these things in previous issues of this column.
It has recently been discovered that there is another kind of hibernation that exists in warm climates. In Madagascar during the dry season there is an animal named the Madagascan fat-tailed dwarf lemur that hibernates for six months or more. During this season temperatures frequently get over 86°F and rarely under 70°F. The lemurs have their body temperature in the same range, but by going into a hibernated state they reduce their food requirements when food is scarce.
The lemurs hibernate in tree cavities and have the same problems to overcome that cold weather hibernators do, and they solve them in much the same way. Trying to explain this kind of hibernation on a trial and error basis takes some vivid imaginations, but the intelligence of it is obvious. It is another example of design that enables survival in a difficult environment, and gets living things through extreme conditions.
--Reference: Science News, July 24, 2004, pages 61-62.
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