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article imageHow do animals survive the winter?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 24, 2014 in Environment
The winter has been particularly severe this year, especially the "polar vortex" in North America. While many people have shivered and coped, spare a though for the animal kingdom. How do they get through the frosty months?
The answers to this question come from a review conducted by Science News, based on different environmental and science reports. Here are six strategies that different animals use.
Monkeys
Mother monkeys with their babies
Barbary Macaques monkeys at Serengetti Park, near Celle
Photo by jasmic
At Jigokudani Monkey Park in the Nagano prefecture of Japan, Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys) bathe in hot springs. This is based on a report in the American Journal of Primatology.
Frogs
This Pinocchio-like tree frog species was discovered by fortunate accident when it ventured into a F...
This Pinocchio-like tree frog species was discovered by fortunate accident when it ventured into a Foja Mountains camp kitchen and perched on a bag of rice, where herpetologist Paul Oliver of Australia's University of Adelaide spotted it. Oliver was unable to find another of these frogs, and suspects that they stay mostly in the treetops. The male frog's nose, the scientists were surprised to discover, points upward when the animal's calling and hangs flaccid when it's not. "Exactly what it i
Tim Laman, National Geographic
Remarkably some frogs use antifreeze! Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) are found across much of North America, from Georgia to Alaska. To survive the freeze, the frogs have higher levels of sugar, urea (a urine waste product) and a third as-yet-unidentified chemical that together act like an antifreeze.
Small mammals
Thor s hero shrew
Thor's hero shrew
Stanley, W. T. et al.
Many small mammals simply bury themselves deep into the snow to stay warm (some ecologists call these animals subnivium). Invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and even birds hide out in this warmer region, living off the vegetation they find there.
Birds
The tree swallow in flight
The tree swallow in flight
Callie Bowdish
Many birds migrate to warmer climes. For some birds this is more strenuous than others. Take the Alpine swift, for example. These birds breed in Switzerland in summer, and then migrate to West Africa for the winter. The birds do not necessarily stop in Africa. By fitting tiny flight recorders to swifts, scientists showed that they stayed aloft for as much as 200 days, more than six months in the air without a touchdown.
Pikas
Squirrel
Squirrel
Like squirrels, the North American Pika stores up food in the winter. One population of pikas living in the Columbia River Gorge of Utah has managed to make it through warmer weather by eating moss. The moss is not very nutritious, though, so the pika gives its digestive system a second chance at extracting nutrients by eating its own feces.
Reindeer
Reindeer in Norwegian arctic region showing distinct pink coloration at tip of nose.
Reindeer in Norwegian arctic region showing distinct pink coloration at tip of nose.
Kia Krarup Hansen
Reindeer that live north of the Arctic Circle have, for part of the year, days where there is no natural light from the sun. Such reindeer have adapted eyes can detect ultraviolet light, which helps when conditions are dim. Digital Journal has an in-depth report on the special properties of reindeer eyes, which can be viewed here.
So, it would seem that several in the animal world as just as adept as humans at coping with the coldest times of the year.
More about Animals, Winter, Cold, Frost, chilly
 
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