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Hibernation is an ingenious adaptation that some animals employ to survive difficult conditions in winter. This free course, Animals at the extremes: Hibernation and torpor, examines the differences between hibernation and torpor, and discusses the characteristic signs of hibernation behaviour. It explores the triggers that bring on hibernation, and whether internal signals or external season cues are predominant. It also examines the physiological adaptations that occur in hibernating animals.
By the end of this free course you should be able to:
- define and use, or recognize definitions and applications of, each of the bold terms;
- give definitions of the terms ‘hibernation’, ‘torpor’ and ‘adaptive hypothermia’, and the three physiological processes that underlie them;
- give examples of the diversity of the major groups of mammals and birds that contain hibernating species;
- describe the physiological changes occurring during entry to hibernation and at least three of the cues that may trigger entry;
- present evidence to show that hibernating mammals and birds retain physiological control of their T
- explain the role of brown adipose tissue and mitochondrial uncoupling of respiration from metabolic energy release in heat generation in mammals;
- describe the analytical and targeted experimental approaches to the identification of genes and proteins implicated in hibernation and arousal, and give examples of them;
- explain the importance of the selection of appropriate metabolic fuel sources in hibernators;
- describe the changes needed to maintain hibernation and survival at cellular level;
- critically describe experiments designed to evaluate the energy cost of hibernation as compared with euthermia, and discuss the importance of three factors that influence whether animals use hibernation as an energy-conserving strategy;
- suggest why periodic arousals occur and offer a mechanism for them;
- present experimental evidence for the view that control of T
b depends upon temperature-sensitive neurons and suggest where they may be located;
- give examples of systems of chemical control for the onset and maintenance of hibernation that operate in the brain and blood circulation;
- describe the relationship between circadian controls of sleep–waking cycles and the maintenance of torpor;
- use diagrams and flow-charts to illustrate physiological and biochemical principles.
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Hibernation and torpor: An introduction
- 2 The nature and extent of hibernation and torpor in endotherms
- 3 Characteristics of hibernation behaviour
- 4 Physiological adaptations – molecules and cells
- 5 Physiological adaptations – respiration and energy provision
- 6 Control systems
- 6.1 Introduction
- 6.2 The hypothalamus as central regulator
- 6.3 Metabolic regulation and the midbrain
- 6.4 Rapid-response genes and rhythmic neuronal activity
- 6.5 The neurotransmitters histamine and serotonin: a role for chemical signalling between neurons of the hypothalamus
- 6.6 Hormones and hibernation
- 6.7 Sleep, the brain and hibernation
- 6.8 Summary
- Unit Questions
- Keep on learning
- Current section: Acknowledgements
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
The content acknowledged below is Proprietary (see) and is used under licence.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit:
Figure 2 Michael and Diane Porter, American Goldfinch, Ideaform Inc.;
Figure 3 Tom and Cathy Saxton, Hummingbird, Saxton.org.;
Figure 4 John Franklin, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Figure 5 Art Wolfe/Science Photo Library;
Figure 6 Roger W. Barbour/Morehead State University;
Figure 7 Peter Menzel/Science Photo Library;
Figure 8 Leonard Lee Rue/Science Photo Library;
Figure 9 Roger W. Barbour/Morehead State University;
Figures 10, 14 Strumwasser, F. (1960) Some physiological principles governing hibernation. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 124, Harvard University;
Figures 11, 19 Lyman, C. P. and O’Brien, R. C. (1960) Circulatory changes in the thirteen-lined ground squirrel during the hibernating cycle. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 124, Harvard University;
Figures 15, 17 Mussacchia, X. J. and Volkert, W. A. (1971) American Journal of Physiology, 221. American Physiological Society;
Figure 21a and b Hayward, J. and Lyman, C. P. (1967) Nonshivering heat production during arousal from hibernation and evidence for the contribution of brown fat, Fisher, K. et al. (eds), Mammalian Hibernation III. 1967 Oliver and Boyd;
Figure 22 Leming Shi, Ph.D., Principal Investigator at the U.S. FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), Jefferson, Arkansas;
Figure 24 Erik Z. Yu and John M. Hallenbeck (2002) Elevated arylalkylamine-N acetyltranserase (AA-NAT)…, Molecular Brain Research, 102. Elsevier Science;
Figure 25a, b Frerichs, K. U. and Smith, C. B. et al. (1998) Suppression of protein synthesis in brain…, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95. National Academy of Sciences;
Figure 26a Malatesta, M. et al. (2002) Quantitative ultrastructural changes of hepatocyte constituents…, Tissue and Cell, 34. Elsevier Science;
Figure 26b Azzam, N. A., Hallenbeck, J. M. and Kachar, B. (2000) Membrane changes during hibernation, Nature, 407. Nature Publishing Group;
Figure 27a and b Ortmann, S. and Heldmaier, G. (2000) Regulation of body temperature and energy requirements…, American Journal of Physiology, 278. Copyright © American Physiological Society;
Figure 28 Dawn Sadler, Open University;
Figure 29 Buck, C. L. and Barnes, B. M. (2000) Effects of ambient temperature on metabolic rate…, American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory Integrative Comparative Physiology, 279. Copyright © American Physiological Society;
Figure 30 Boutilier, R. G. and St-Pierre, J. (2002) Adaptive plasticity of skeletal muscle energetics in hibernating frogs: mitochondrial proton leak during metabolic depression, Journal of Experimental Biology, 205. Copyright © Company of Biologists Ltd;
Figure 31a and b Zimmer, M. B. and Milsom, W. K. (2002) Ventilatory pattern and chemosensitivity…, Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, 113. Elsevier Science;
Figure 32 Schleucher, E. (2001) Heterothermia in pigeons and doves reduces energetic costs, Journal of Thermal Biology, 26. Elsevier Science;
Figure 33 Koteja, P. et al. (2001) Energy balance of hibernating mouse-eared bat Myotis myotis… Acta Theriologica, 46. Polska Akademia Nauk, Zaklad Badania Ssakow;
Figure 34 Diana Weedman Molavi, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine;
Figure 37 Heller, H. C. (1977) Pflugers Archiv, 369, Springer Verlag GmbH & Co KFigureG;
Figure 39 Masaaki Hashimoto et al. (2002) Arousal from hibernation and BAT thermogenesis against cold…, Journal of Thermal Biology, 27. Elsevier Science;
Figure 40 Quezzani, S. E. et al. (1999) Neuronal activity in the mediobasal hypothalamus of hibernating jerboas, Neuroscience Letters, 260. Elsevier Science;
Figure 41a Popov, V. I. (1992) Repeated changes of dendritic morphology in the hippocampus of ground squirrels…, Neuroscience, 48. Elsevier Science;
Figure 41b Panula, P. et al. (2002) The histaminergic system in the brain…, Journal of Chemical Neuranatomy, 18. Elsevier Science;
Figure 41c Sallmen, T. et al. (2003) Intrahippocampal histamine delays arousal from hibernation, Brain Research, 966. Elsevier Science;
Figure 42 Pitrosky, B. et al. (2003) Research report – S22153, a melatonin antagonist dissociates…, Behavioural Brain Research, 138. Elsevier Science;
Tom and Cathy Saxton, Hummingbird.
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This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Natural History courses or view the range of currently available OU Natural History courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 1st June 2011
Last updated on: Wednesday, 20th July 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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