Hamsters are the latest pet obsession in our house – the 8-year-old wants one but Daddy has said “No”.
The girls have friends and cousins with hamster pets and they know lots of facts about the furry little creatures. “Apparently, they hibernate in the Winter” our eldest told us, as she and her sister tried to list all the animals they could think of that hibernate. “But what about sharks?” asked the 4-year-old. “Can they hibernate?”
Hibernation is something that animals, like hedgehogs, bears and dormice, do during the cold Winter months. These animals are warm-blooded, which means they use energy from the food they eat to keep their bodies warm. But keeping warm when the weather is cold takes a lot of extra energy, and in wintertime there is often less food around for these animals to eat. So, hibernation is a way for these animals to solve this problem.
An animal that is going to hibernate will find a safe and cosy place (a nest, burrow or cave) to hide in, and spend the Autumn months eating lots of extra food to store up energy for the Winter. When it is ready to hibernate, the animal goes into its safe place, gets comfy, curls up and go into a very deep sort of sleep. It heartbeat and breathing will slow down almost to a complete stop and its body temperature drops down as low as it can go. The animal stays still and won’t eat, move, wee or poop until Springtime comes around.
But what about sharks?!
Sharks are fish and they live in the seas and oceans. They are cold-blooded creatures, which means that their bodies are the same temperature was the water that surrounds them.
Sharks don’t breathe like land animals do – instead, they use special body parts called ‘gills‘ to take the oxygen they need from water. Some types of shark will swim non-stop in order to stay alive because they have to move to get the water into their gills. Other types of shark have a special hole near their gills that helps them to keep water moving over their gills. Sharks don’t sleep like hibernators do and they can’t slow their body processes down to save energy to be able to hibernate.
So, now you know – sharks don’t hibernate through the Winter because they don’t need to and their bodies don’t work in the same way as the bodies of hibernating animals.
If you enjoyed this post, you can test your knowledge with this hibernation quiz!