Warm weather is on the way, but how did our animal friends survive the winter? While some species are visible all winter (like squirrels), others seems to disappear until April. So, where did they go? And how did they deal with the cold weather? Read on to learn more!
Great work on this first week of learning from home, everyone! We’ll be back with activities, videos, and lessons on Monday. Have a safe weekend!
Brumation and hibernation
Animals like turtles and frogs are able to survive Chicago’s cold temps because they’re able to hibernate! Specifically, they enter a special kind of hibernation called brumation. They continue to absorb oxygen through special patches of skin on their bodies, but they actually spend the winter underwater!
Guiding Question: How do the places where animals live change in the winter? What do animals do when their homes change?
Does sugar slow freezing?
Wood frogs can withstand incredibly low temperatures. Why? Because the glucose in their bodies acts as antifreeze! The glucose, or sugar, prevents their vital organs from freezing solid. See how sugar impacts water’s ability to freeze with this experiment.
Guiding Question: When we did the experiment, which water froze faster? Thawed faster? How does that relate to animals that have glucose in their bodies?
Shots from the field!
Dr. Allison has been out in the field monitoring amphibians and reptiles. She’s even seen a few that have just come out of hibernation, like this gartersnake. Gartersnakes spend the winter in dens underground, where the temperature is more consistent. In the spring, and on warmer winter days, they’ll emerge to bask in the sun. That’s what this one did! Can you see the mud on it?
Guiding Question: Why do you think gartersnakes hibernate in groups? Why do you think they spend the winter underground? Can you think of other animals that might do that?
Where do the pond turtles go?
Take a walk around North Pond in the summer and you’re bound to see dozens of turtles basking. As soon as the cold weather hits, they’re nowhere to be found. Where did they go? Believe it or not, they actually brumate at the bottom of the pond. Check out this cool video from the Washington Post that explains the process in a fun, easy-to-understand way!
Guiding Question: Do you remember seeing turtles at North Pond? Have we seen any during the winter? Where do you think they are? Do you think we’ll see them when the weather warms up?
Behind the scenes!
Although their cousins in the wild have spent the winter hibernating, the Nature Museum’s animals don’t hibernate! They’re active all year because our caretakers are able to keep them warm and safe. Check out this fun video of our spotted turtles having a snack!