Altered sleeping patterns among hibernating animals linked to global warming

February 3rd, 2008 - 7:15 pm ICT by admin  

National Geographic

Washington, Feb 3 (ANI): New evidence has suggested that the sleeping patterns of hibernating animals have been altered due to rising temperatures from global warming, which could bring them to the brink of extinction.

These abbreviated hibernations are part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that hibernating animals are waking up earlieror not going to sleep at all.

According to a report in National Geographic News, this new finding was done by researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Crested Butte, Colorado, who took the case of the change observed in the marmot’s hibernation patterns.

When these animals were studied in the 1970s, it was seen that rarely awoke before the third week of May.

But these days, according to the scientists, marmots regularly end their winter naps a month beforehandby the third week of April.

Average low temperatures in April in Gothic, Colorado, the site of the marmot study, have climbed 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 degrees Celsius) since 1976, the first year researchers began recording marmot hibernation stats.

“With respect to the marmots, at least, the evidence is convincing that it is connected to warming temperatures,” said David Inouye, a biology professor at the University of Maryland who collaborated with the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab researchers.

Overall, from chipmunks and squirrels in the Rocky Mountains to brown bears in Spain, these altered slumber patterns are putting animals at risk both of starvation and increased predation, researchers saywhich could bring many species to the brink of extinction.

According to scientists, it’s quite logical to believe that rising springtime temperatures explain why animals are awakening at times that they would normally be snoozing.

Hibernating animals survive on fat reserves during the winter months when food is scarce. During hibernation, their metabolisms slow and their body temperatures drop to levels close to ambient air temperature.

As long is the air is cold, the animals’ bodies are too, consuming very little of the fat they accumulated in summer and fall.

But as air temperature increases, so does body temperature and metabolism. The hibernating animals are then observed to wake up, migrate and give birth earlier. (ANI)

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