To deal with this cold, some animals have the right idea – find a nice place and sleep right through it. Our turtles are having a nice rest under the leaves and straw in their garden enclosure. It is indeed the time of year for some animals to be in a sleep-like state called hibernation. This dormant state means that they survive on minimal food, water, movement, thinking or going to the bathroom.
Some really deep hibernators, such as bears, rarely “awaken” during this time once they are settled in their den. Others such as gophers, bats, raccoons and skunks are in torpor where their metabolism lowers and they don’t use much energy, but they’re not really asleep.
Here’s the really cool part! Reptiles, like our turtles, bury themselves under dirt and leaves as a first defense against the cold, but their bodies also have a natural antifreeze, glucose sugar, that keeps their organs from freezing solid. This is called supercooling and it allows their blood to cool several degrees below the freezing point of their body tissue.
Try this activity to test out supercooling.
- Ice cube tray
- Sugar and/or Corn Syrup
- Stir stick
What You Do:
1. Fill one section of an ice tray 1/2 full with sugar or corn syrup and add some water OR fill one section of an ice tray half full with sugar and another section 1/2 full with corn syrup and add water to each. Stir until sugars dissolve.
2. Fill two other sections of the ice tray with plain water.
3. Put it in the freezer for about 2 hours
4. Take it from the freezer and check out the results!
The sections with plain water should be frozen while the sections with sugar are not completely frozen. How “supercool”!?!