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#funfactfriday Hibernation, torpor, aestivation... there are so many words in nature to describe a deep sleep! Are they all different things?

Spadefoot photo credit: Jonquil Crosby

Torpor is basically any period of highly reduced physical activity by an animal. It is almost always accompanied by a lowered body temperature and slower metabolism. Torpor is usually an involuntary response to temperature change, lack of food, or amount of daylight, and many animals do it every day! Hummingbirds and some mice go into torpor every night to conserve energy for the next morning.

Hibernation is essentially a state of extreme torpor for a long period of time in the winter to survive cold temperatures and short days, and it is relatively voluntary. The hibernating animal instinctively realizes that conditions are not ideal and puts itself into hibernation. Snakes, ground squirrels, and some mice undergo deep hibernation, where they will not emerge at all during the winter, though they may briefly wake to defecate or eat. It is important that the animal has enough stored fat and energy to survive hibernation. Contrary to popular belief, most of the stored energy is not used up while the animal is in hibernation. Much of the energy is used during the hours-long process of awakening and "restarting" their bodies.

And as for aestivation? It's just hibernation....but in the summer when it's too hot!


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