Well that’s one way to conserve energy Many animals hibernate to survive cold, dark winters. In hot climates, some animals—including species of amphibians and reptiles—undergo a form of hibernation called estivation. Most bury themselves in the ground to wait for the wet season or cooler temperatures. –discoverwildlife.com
You read it first in this week’s The Factory in Guide magazine.
You know what hibernation is, right? During winter months when it’s cold and resources like food are scarce, some animals—typically endotherms, also known as warm-blooded creatures—go into this kind of deep sleep to conserve energy. Everything important to homeostasis—the equilibrium of the body’s internal processes—seems to drop. Heart rate, metabolism, breathing, and sometimes even temperature will significantly plummet to low levels. If we humans did that, it’d be unlikely that we would come out of it alive. Certain animals can do it though, allowing them to stay in stasis until their environment is more hospitable for them. But what about when an environment tips towards the other extreme? What do certain animals do when their environment gets too hot and dry to survive? Let’s find out!
While endotherms rely on their internal processes to generate the heat that keeps their body temperature warm, ectotherms don’t have that ability. Ectotherms, otherwise known as cold-blooded critters, depend on external sources to regulate how hot or cold they need to be to function. Most invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and reptiles are cold-blooded and live in environments that are best suited to cater to their needs. That’s why animals like snakes and lizards choose to live in places that are hot and sometimes humid like a rainforest and not some place freezing cold like Antarctica.
The South Pole just can’t provide the necessary warmth and humidity that these creatures would need to survive like a rainforest or a desert can. But even in the hot places that some of these creatures call home, sometimes their environment won’t always stay ideal. During colder months, some ectotherms will partake in brumation, their equivalent of hibernation. Other times when it’s really hot, certain places can get so heated and dry that the cold-blooded residents of that environment just wouldn’t survive. But we still find them alive and well today. So what do they do? Well, they have a very special kind of deep sleep of their own that they utilize to survive.
Aestivation (estivation) is when certain ectotherms go into a special deep sleep to wait out the searing, dry heat until cooler temperatures and rainy seasons come along. Just as the hibernating endotherms hide away in their dens and burrows to conserve heat, estivating ectotherms will often burrow into cool, damp dirt to conserve what little water and cold relief they can get from the sweltering sun. However, there is often great risk in aestivation as burying one’s self alive can be dangerous and quite deadly if not done carefully. If the environment doesn’t cool down soon enough, the aestivating critters may not make it.
Aestivation is quite similar to hibernation. The breathing, metabolism, and heartrate of an aestivator all drop just like a hibernator’s does. This is to slow the rest of the body’s processes down so that the animal is able to conserve as much energy as possible, waiting for when the environment is more forgiving.
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