Animals that hibernate can avoid extinction
In a new study, it has been found that the reclusive behavior of many animals to hibernate can be a remarkably good way to avoid extinction for them.
According to a report in Discovery News, the study determines that mammals which regularly hunker down, hibernate, or otherwise hide from the world, are better at weathering environmental change than are less hermitic species.
The finding offers a window into which animals might thrive as the climate changes and habitats vanish.
“Just imagine yourself in a war zone,” said lead researcher Lee Hsiang Liow, a paleobiologist at the University of Oslo. “Having some food storage and a place to avoid harsh environmental conditions would help you survive that period while there was bombing outside in your habitat,” he added.
Liow and colleagues from both the University of Oslo and the University of Helsinki were originally looking in the fossil record for a link between body size and extinction rates among mammals.
An unexpected outcome of the study was the hint that hibernation-like behaviors, which are more common in smaller animals, might help explain why smaller animals tend to be better survivors.
To test the idea, the scientists tapped into a database of more than 4,500 living mammal species.
For most species, they looked at nine so-called sleep-or-hide behaviors - including hibernation, using burrows or tunnels, and going into a state of torpor or dormancy.
Next, the team looked up each species’ category of conservation, as listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The analyses found that having at least one sleep-or-hide behavior made a species less likely to appear on the IUCN Red List as threatened or endangered.
The category included black bears, hedgehogs, and raccoon dogs native to Asia.
The scientists used statistics to account for body size and range size, which are both strong predictors of an animal’s risk of extinction. And still, the findings held.
“You can always find unique explanations or stories about why things happen to certain animals,” Liow said. “What we’re seeing here is that sleep-or-hide related traits are extra characteristics that could help predict extinction risk,” he added.