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Animals at the extremes: Hibernation and torpor

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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.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • define and use, or recognise 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 Tb.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 14 hours
  • Updated Thursday 24th March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Animals at the extremes: Hibernation and torpor


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This is the second in a series of three courses on Animals at the extremes. In order to get the most from it, you should have previously studied Animals at the extremes: The desert environment (S324_1) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . After completing this course you might like to complete the series by studying Animals at the extremes: Polar biology (S324_3).

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 3 study in Science.

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