UNDERWATER WINTER: Adaptations

Except for a few member of the Polar Bear Club, most humans wouldn’t survive very long in the chilly waters of a frozen pond. Beavers and other fellow mammals can, and we’ll hear how they do in the next few minutes. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

ambience beaver cubs

We’re listening to the sounds of beaver cubs, just one of the animal species that live in and around frozen ponds throughout the winter. Peter Marchand, a visiting professor of biology at Colorado College, tells us that both beavers and muskrats spend the winter in their half-submerged lodges — structures they build from sticks and mud. Now, the only way out of the lodge is through an underwater tunnel, so when they leave to forage for food, the animals face a major problem — massive heat-loss, or hypothermia.

“Now, warm-blooded mammals cannot tolerate more than a slight level of hypothermia. So they must counter this heat loss with a number of behavioral and physiological adaptations. Both of these animals, the beaver and the muskrat’s fur has superior insulative quality. They also spend a good deal of time grooming this fur with oils that help waterproof the fur.”

The animals can spend up to 40 minutes in the chilly waters, but once they return home, they’ll warm up with a little help from their friends.

“Both the muskrat and the beaver enjoy the advantage of being able to return to communal lodges where, with nest-mates, they find much warmer temperatures, and where they may also commence to groom each other in a communal manner that helps them rewarm greatly.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.


Peter J. Marchand is the author of Life in the Cold, 3rd edition, published in 1996 by University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. ISBN 0-87451-785-0

UNDERWATER WINTER: Adaptations

How do mammals survive life in and around a frozen pond during the winter?
Air Date:01/20/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

Except for a few member of the Polar Bear Club, most humans wouldn't survive very long in the chilly waters of a frozen pond. Beavers and other fellow mammals can, and we'll hear how they do in the next few minutes. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

ambience beaver cubs

We're listening to the sounds of beaver cubs, just one of the animal species that live in and around frozen ponds throughout the winter. Peter Marchand, a visiting professor of biology at Colorado College, tells us that both beavers and muskrats spend the winter in their half-submerged lodges -- structures they build from sticks and mud. Now, the only way out of the lodge is through an underwater tunnel, so when they leave to forage for food, the animals face a major problem -- massive heat-loss, or hypothermia.

"Now, warm-blooded mammals cannot tolerate more than a slight level of hypothermia. So they must counter this heat loss with a number of behavioral and physiological adaptations. Both of these animals, the beaver and the muskrat's fur has superior insulative quality. They also spend a good deal of time grooming this fur with oils that help waterproof the fur."

The animals can spend up to 40 minutes in the chilly waters, but once they return home, they'll warm up with a little help from their friends.

"Both the muskrat and the beaver enjoy the advantage of being able to return to communal lodges where, with nest-mates, they find much warmer temperatures, and where they may also commence to groom each other in a communal manner that helps them rewarm greatly."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.


Peter J. Marchand is the author of Life in the Cold, 3rd edition, published in 1996 by University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. ISBN 0-87451-785-0