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Hibernation Doesn’t Have to Be Cold

Hibernation tends to go hand-in-hand with cold temperatures, but the greater mouse-tailed bat hibernates at a comfortable 68-degrees Fahrenheit

Greater mouse-tailed bats. Photo: A. Muller

Hibernation tends to go hand-in-hand with cold temperatures—think of a bear curling up for the winter, or a turtle hibernating on the bottom of a frozen pond. Cold temperatures slow down bodily processes like metabolism and blood flow and allow animals to survive in a suspension-like state. But one species, the greater mouse-tailed bat, hibernates all winter at a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit. How do the bats manage this?

Ants, it turns out, are likely the answer, according to postdoctoral researcher Eran Levin, writing for Scientific American. When would-be queen carpenter ants in Israel set out on their nuptial flights over the summer, the bats take advantage of this buffet-on-wings and gorge themselves on those insects.

Those queen ants aren’t just a tasty snack—they’re full of saturated fats. Normally, hibernating animals build of stores of unsaturated fats, Levin writes, which remain liquid rather than turn solid in cold temperatures (think butter versus vegetable oil, Levin explains). But since the bats hibernate in relatively warm places, those saturated fats serve them well for making it through the winter months.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Bat Killer Confirmed
To the Bat Cave!

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