Scientists Say: Hibernation

This is more than just a deep sleep

Hibernating bats

These bats aren’t sleeping. They’re hibernating inside a mine.

メルビル/ CC BY-SA 4.0

Hibernation (noun, “HI-ber-NAY-shun”), Hibernate (verb “HI-ber-nate”)

This is a period of torpor that lasts for a whole season. During torpor, an animal reduces its body temperature. It also decreases its bodily activities. This is a good way for an animal to save energy that it might otherwise use keeping warm and finding food. Torpor can be a short as a single night. But when it goes on for a long time — such as an entire winter — scientists call it hibernation. 

In a sentence

The deadly white nose syndrome hits bats while they hibernate — when their low body temperatures make it easier for the fungus that causes the disease to spread.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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