Chipmunks, for example, cache food to eat in between bouts of torpor.
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Their heart rate declines dramatically from 50-60 beats per minute during summer to 10-20 per minute in hibernation.
During this time, they hardly breathe, taking 1.5 breaths per minute on average.
Body temperature and metabolic rate stabilized 10 and 15 days, respectively, after den exit, but heart rate didn’t stabilize for another month.
These graphs chart the relationship between physiological parameters of brown bears in Sweden.
Scientists are still elucidating basic details about this remarkable process.
For example, what causes bears to enter and exit the den?
All bears left the den when their body temperature was 36.7˚C (98˚F) ± 0.15 °C, the active-state body temperature for brown bears.
As the researchers note, the narrow temperature range at this time suggests bears exit the den when their body temperature reaches a specific point.
I recently spent about 40 hours reviewing studies related to hibernation and denning in brown bears for a chapter in my book on Brooks River’s bears and salmon, which reminded me just how remarkable this process is.
While in the den, bears spend about 98% of their time not moving.
Even if immobilization didn’t cause starvation, osteoporosis, and atrophy in people, we would die of dehydration if placed in an equivalent situation.