Unit Study: Wake Up and Learn About Hibernation!
- Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Before I went to bed last night to sleep I put my computer into hibernate mode. The monitor screen went black. The temperature in the terminal dropped so the fans went off. The computer did no work and used much less electricity all night. And you thought only bears hibernated. Well, do bears hibernate? Yes and no, well . . . ? Yes, they do, but they are not true hibernators any more than bats, insects or opossums. There are types of hibernation and then there is sleep. Find out the five "w's" Who hibernates? Where? Why? What? and When?
Hibernation comes from the Latin word Hiberna which means winter. It refers to the "sleeping" or resting of an animal so that it can conserve energy and survive during periods of harsh weather. It seems mysterious and fascinating to us because it is not one of the easily observable activities of the animal kingdom.
Sleep is not hibernation, but it strongly resembles hibernation. What are the like characteristics? During sleep our brains process all the data collected since we last slept. The data is sorted—some deleted and what the brain decides to save is stored for reference. What occurs if the sleep process is interfered with or if the brain is unable to delete unneeded information? Does the mind become confused, develop learning disabilities or mental illness? As a person ages he may become forgetful or get Alzheimer's where the process of mental sorting does not work correctly. These people may forget important things and remember trivial items.
There are several types of hibernation. Start a binder style notebook by gluing in pictures of different animals and labeling them by the type of hibernating characteristics they utilize. Be certain you include some of each of these: true or deep (groundhogs, chipmunks, bats and some birds), carnivorous lethargy (bears, skunks, raccoons and opossums), diurnal (snakes, fish, and frogs), diapause (insects), estivation or dormancy (hummingbirds, mice, and bats). This is a partial list. Some animals are called different names in different parts of our country. In some places the groundhog is called a woodchuck. In others he is referred to as a whistle pig, or a marmot. List all the different names you can find for each animal. In most cases only certain types of a species hibernates. Label your animals. Leave room on each page for extra notes as you learn.
Questions for Investigation:
Do butterflies hibernate in their cocoons? What is a lungfish? What weather conditions besides extreme cold cause hibernation? What if the weather is mild or hot and dry? Is food a factor? Where do hummingbirds go at night? Why don't they starve? Some cicadas stay underground for seven years. Is this hibernation of a sort?
Biology and Ethics:
Most biologists agree that the hibernation instinct is regulated by the hypothalamus gland. Some scientists claim to have discovered hibernation genes in humans which our ancestors used to hibernate during harsh cold weather. I do not believe this is true or that people hibernated. These scientists hope to find a way to make people hibernate by manipulating these genes. This would, they think, make the person's body use up stored fat. They would not wake enough to eat and so would wake finally slim and trim. Do you see any ethical problems with this? Write an essay or story about what could go wrong with such a plan and what it might entail.
HIT, Hibernating Inducement Trigger is a chemical found in the blood of animals that hibernate. Some experiments have been done that involved taking blood from hibernating animals, freezing it and then in the spring season injecting it into active animals.
Some scientists think body parts could be warehoused by injecting them with HIT. Therefore, the parts could be stored, moved and used for transplants without the time constraints now imposed. Discuss how such a system could work. Why do you think it is or isn't a viable objective? What problems do you see with it?
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