Watching bears sleep

A "heroic" five-month study reveals the secrets of black bear hibernation

Megan Scudellari
Feb 16, 2011
Despite maintaining high body temperatures during the winter, bears really do hibernate, concludes a first-of-its-kind glimpse into the annual dormancy of black bears.
American black bear
Credit: Øivind Tøien
The research, published this week in linkurl:Science,;http://www.sciencemag.org/ resolves the longstanding question about the bears' winter activities and offers novel insights into hibernation physiology, such as identifying a dramatic drop in metabolic rate."It is a really heroic effort," linkurl:Gerhard Heldmaier;http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb17/forschung/fobericht/Foberichtneu/heldmaierklingenspor of Philipps-Universitat Marburg in Germany, who was not involved in the research, said in an email to The Scientist. Bears hibernate on average 5 to 7 months a year, during which time they don't eat, drink, urinate or defecate. Øivind Tøien and colleagues at the linkurl:Institute of Arctic Biology;http://www.iab.uaf.edu/ at the University of Alaska Fairbanks monitored the metabolic activity and body temperature of five black bears day and night for five months, an unprecedented undertaking. The bears -- nuisance animals...
Snoring black bear
Video by Øivind Tøien
PerspectiveScience.
American black bear
Credit: Øivind Tøien
Tøien, Ø., et al., "Hibernation in Black Bears: Independence of Metabolic Suppression from Body Temperature," Science, 331:906-9.