11 February 2014 Sleepy Time for Arctic Ground Squirrels

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Great Journal!

What a great journal Peggy! I love the pictures and am impressed at how much you picked up from the presentation and the great pictures you found of the (safe) surgeries done on the squirrels. Thank you for such a great journal!

Thank you.

Yes, it was a very interesting presentation!

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Arctic Ground Squirrel

When they get the data do they have to try to catch the same squirrel and keep setting a trap out for them to catch the right one by Brian s.

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Article ground squirrels

The 5 months they aren't hibernating, what do they do? Do they just load up on food for the upcoming hibernation? Or do they catch up on the food they missed during the previous hibernation?

Re: [PolarTREC] February 11, 2014 Sleepy Time for Arctic Ground

The five months they aren't hibernating they are partying!!! No, just
kidding, well kind of. The males leave their burrows earlier than the
females so they can get their game on. Seriously- there is a lot of
male-male competition for access to the females during this time. Then
females leave their burrows and mating follows. The pups are born 25
days later and weaned after six weeks. After that you are correct, they
eat and eat and eat to prepare for the upcoming winter. Other than
that, they hang out and do their arctic ground squirrel thing. Thanks
for the question!
On 2/13/14 7:40 AM, webmaster@polartrec.com wrote:
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Squirrel temperatures

What an interesting study, Peggy. I had no idea any mammal could lower their body temperature to such an extreme level as the artic ground squirrel. Makes perfect sense, but almost seems magical. They look adorable. I'm learning a lot!

Re: [PolarTREC] February 11, 2014 Sleepy Time for Arctic Ground

Isn't it crazy? Jeanette Moore told us that if you could see their
blood it would look like a strawberry slurpy. Their metabolism drops so
low that it's as if they really are in a suspended state of living.

Timothy Benton
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brain repairs in human

I wonder if humans brains could be repaired after being damaged by strokes

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mom

hi

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Arctic ground squirrels

If you dropped it or something could it wake up?

If you dropped it or something could it wake up?

Yes, in fact while we were holding it, it even started to wake up a bit just from the warmth of our hands and the warm room. What's interesting is that during its 7 month hibernation, it actually shivers itself back to normal temperatures every two to three weeks for 12 to 18 hours before going back into its deep freeze. Isn't that weird? Apparently it's to prevent the brain from withering away and dying.

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Squirrels

How would it help humans to know which genes make them live while acting dead?
~david coffey p.3

How help to know which genes make them live while acting dead?

Hi David, By figuring out how the arctic ground squirrel's brain recuperates from deep hibernation, the scientists are hoping to figure out new ways to reverse cell damage in diseases that affect the brain, like Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease strikes many older people. It would be great if we could figure out a way to reverse or prevent it. Do you think a little squirrel can help us figure that out?

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If the blood turns to a slush

If the blood turns to a slush like you said isn't that cold enough for the blood to build up in a vessel and clog it which would prevent blood flow killing it? -Cameron To

If the blood turns to a slush

Hi Cameron, Like all other body functions, circulation slows way down too. (Remember I said the heart rate goes way down?) All of this would speed back up as the squirrel warms, which would also warm up the blood. So when it really gets moving again the blood is warmed up. Isn't that weird? That's a great question that I hadn't thought of yet.

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Is it possible for the blood

Is it possible for the blood to freeze before their body heat spikes back up?

Jake C. period 6

Is it possible for the blood to freeze?

Hi Jake, What you noticed from the graph we made today is that as the hibernacula continued to get colder and colder (down to -16ºC) the squirrel stopped lowering its body temperature at about -1.6ºC. That's as cold as the squirrel gets- probably because any lower and it would die, That temp is below the freezing point of water but not below the freezing point of the squirrel's blood because the blood contains some salts. Remember when we made ice cream we were able to supercool the water (get it below the freezing point of pure water) because we added the rock salt. So no, the blood doesn't freeze. Thanks for the great question!

Do they have to try to catch the same squirrel ?

Great question Brian, I wondered that myself. The squirrels are ear-tagged so they can identify them. And apparently they don't roam far from their burrows, especially the females. So the scientist we spoke to said it's fairly easy to put the traps out again and just catch the same squirrels. Also, they implant the device in many squirrels at a time so if one squirrel goes missing they still have plenty of data.

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Scientist with cures for brain patients

If scientist do find the way how ground squirrels sleep for 9 months straight, how would they make the cure for people with brain damage from ground squirrels?

-Antonio Olivieri Period 6

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Is it possible for the

Is it possible for the squirrel to completely die during hibernation for some reason?
-sarah m period 6

Is it possible for the squirrel to completely die?

Yes, it is Sarah. Arctic ground squirrels can actually freeze to death, die from disease or because they become lunch for another critter. Arctic ground squirrels predators are grizzly bears, hawks, owls, falcons, eagles and ermine. An ermine is a weasel that grows a snow-white coat in winter. They look totally cute until you realize this is one hardcore carnivore, with razor sharp teeth used to take down animals larger than itself. Google it and you'll see!

If scientist do find the way...

Antonio, it's not so much that scientists are studying how arctic ground squirrels hibernate, they are more interested in how they recover from such a total brain shutdown. While the arctic ground squirrel hibernates, millions of synapses (connections between brain cells) wilt. So that would be a situation something like a human with brain damage or Alzheimer's disease. And yet in only two hours after emerging from hibernation, the squirrel rejuvenates its brain, compensating for the lost synapses. In fact a newly emerged squirrel has a healthier brain than one found in the middle of summer. When brain cells in the human brain die, that's about it. Our brains seem to have a very limited ability to heal themselves. Scientists aren't sure what triggers the squirrel's brain recovery but think it may have something to do with a protein. If they can figure that out and apply it to humans, maybe someday brain damage can be reversed. Thanks for the thoughtful question, Antonio!

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Where did the researchers

Where did the researchers find the artic ground squirrels?

How did the researchers keep the squirrels in hibernation after they caught them?

Where did the researchers

They trap the arctic ground squirrels in the tundra outside the research station. They just use wire cage traps and carrots for bait. Sometimes they trap the same squirrels year after year. The squirrels fall for the carrot trick every time.

They have a few in the lab to study year round. They hold them in hibernation by keeping them at very cold temperatures, like in a freezer. The one that I saw was transported to our classroom in a cooler- just like one you would use to carry food to a picnic.

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Matsutaka Uchikoshi

During hibernation when his metabolism was slowed, does he lose weight from not consuming food?

Chloe Riddlespurger, Seiper Sindi - Period. 7 Mrs. McNeal

Re: [PolarTREC] February 11, 2014 Sleepy Time for Arctic Ground

Chloe and Sieper,

Yes.  The squirrel loses about one third of its body weight.  Can you even imagine?  Great question!
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Hunter Smith Period.7 How

Hunter Smith Period.7

How dose matsutaka uchikoshis brain contain to be stable while after getting unconscious for three or so weeks. they say he became 100% "ok" after the incident of him tripping and falling into a "coma" like endured sleep when he goes into hibernation. so how do we not know that he just didn't have a coma?

Re: [PolarTREC] February 11, 2014 Sleepy Time for Arctic Ground

Hunter,

This type of state is called "suspended animation"- the slowing of life process by external means, in this case by extreme cold.  It is similar to a coma.  I think the difference is what causes it.  I also don't think that it is completely understood what happened to him, but it sure is weird.  Thanks for the question.
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How would Matsutaka Uchikoshi

How would Matsutaka Uchikoshi be able to survive without water because a human body can only survive three days without water?
- Rachel S. & Noah M. from 7th period

Re: [PolarTREC] February 11, 2014 Sleepy Time for Arctic Ground

Rachel and Noah,
Well presumably, if he was hibernating his metabolism slowed down and so does his need for water. Animals don't need water when they hibernate. His biological needs during hibernation change. It's like he's in suspended animation. It is totally weird, huh?

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