Saturday, November 29, 2008


Though not official until December 21, it seems winter is here.

Animals have an amazing ability to adapt to winter and changes in temperature. Some land-hibernating frogs, such as the wood frog, overwinter or hibernate by freezing solid during winter, resurrecting themselves in spring; within six hours after thawing, a frog in one study resumed breathing and its heartbeat returned to normal. Other frogs who are freeze tolerant are the spring peeper, chorus frog, grey tree frog. Communal nesting, such as that seen in beaver, and small rodents like mice and voles, is a prime way to fend off winter cold: the inside of a snow-covered beaver lodge may be as much as 35 degrees warmer than the outside air in mid winter.

To welcome winter, I have a small arsenal of books about winter ecology. Peter J. Marchand's Life In The Cold: An Introduction to Winter Ecology, where the above factoid came from, is one such book I've been reading with fascination.

Huskies are clearly animals superbly acclimated to the cold. Their double-coated fur protects them from wind, snow and rain. Jack prefers to be outside in the snow. And when we run, the dogs take frequent breaks to cool down, rolling in the welcome crystals of the cold snow eagerly. Huskies learn to eat snow while running, called "dipping," to take care of themselves and their body temperature.

So, why haven't people adapted?

People complain about winter, never venturing outside to see the amazing winter activities taking place every day. Crystals of snow drift slowly from a winter sky; a blue jay fluffing its feathers to keep itself warm; huskies running down one of the trails we train on :-)

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