Hibernation Mystery

In winter, bears slow their metabolic rates far more than their body temperatures would predict.

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The Alaska team also found that when bears got moving again in spring, their metabolisms took several weeks to creep back to normal. Monitoring data showed that bears with half-speed metabolic rates still displayed normal bearish behavior.

That observation fits with studies on grizzlies, which spend the first few weeks after hibernating with heart rates at half the summer speed, says Lynne Nelson of Washington State University in Pullman. “It never ceases to amaze me just how adaptable the physiologic systems of these bears can be.”

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