The Chemistry of Hibernation


Hibernation is one of nature’s most mesmerizing events. Animals tend to stay in one spot for months at a time without eating, drinking, or even defecating. Many animals hibernate: bears, bats, skunks, groundhogs and even snakes. Even though animals hibernate in the winter many things can trigger animals to start there hibernation. This includes temperature changes, decrease in food supply, and changes in hormones or length of days.

Composition of ...

The urea-creatine ratio in bears in 22 or more before hibernating, however when hibernation is in process this can drop to 10 or less.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

In the bear’s body the breathing slows down drastically and blood vessel often constrict. Animals in hibernation require a significantly lower amount of oxygen because of this. Processes like these allow the bears to reduce energy use by up tp 80%. Bears are one of the few animals that can stay in total hibernations for months without any ill-effects, they can stay in hibernation for up to 8 months.

Chemistry's Role

While hibernating, animals’ heart rates tend to drop as well as their body temperatures. Heart rates in bears are normally around 40 to 50 beats and this drops to about 19-8 beats per minute. Their breathing also drops to an average of one breathe every 45 seconds. Bears and other animals use hibernation as an essential tool for survival.

Background Research

Many animals in different parts of the world hibernate in different stages. Squirrels can lower their temperatures and stay in one place for weeks while bears can stay in the same spot for months without leaving. This process allows animals to get through winters in which they might have otherwise died.


Lower heart rates and slower breathing.

Hibernation is months long.

Lower body temperature.

About the Author

Tory Winsor is a junior at Senior High School. He enjoys attending spending time with friends and family. His favorite class is Spanish which he has been in for 3 years.