Hibernation

Snowy bat caves

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Science  24 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6404, pp. 764-765
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6404.764-f

Ussurian tube-nosed bats hibernate in tiny snow caves.

PHOTO: HIROFUMI HIRAKAWA

Snow provides thermal protection from extreme temperatures, a phenomenon capitalized on by polar bears and people indigenous to parts of the Arctic. But snow does not provide a cozy environment, a likely reason why more mammals have not evolved to take advantage of its protection against extreme cold. Hirakawa and Nagasaka, however, report that Ussurian tube-nosed bats (Murina ussuriensis) appear to create tiny snow “caves” with their bodies, which then serve as opportunistic hibernacula. After coming across anecdotal accounts of small bats being found curled up in the snow, the authors systematically searched for bats in such conditions, finding more than 30 near Sapporo, Japan. The animals displayed classic torpor positions, curled nose-to-tail, and decreased body temperatures. The authors model conditions under which the bats' bodies could create their small caves and set forth several hypotheses for hibernating conditions and scenarios. The finding that these bats use a snowy blanket for hibernation protection opens up the opportunity for many intriguing questions to be answered.

Sci. Rep. 8, 12047 (2018).

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