Thursday, September 25, 2008

Learning About Bears

This evening we began chapter 3 in Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day. It began with a general overview of bears. Some of what we read, I already knew. I was surprised by one thing I learned. I shared it with my husband who was also unaware of the fact I was sharing. Then I looked it up online to verify what we had read. It left me surprised, yet again, but what we've been taught or not taught or taught incorrectly by public school.

So, what were the things I already knew? Simple things like bears what they eat and how large they are fit in that category. Polar bears eat primarily meat because that's what is available to them in their habitat. If you come across one of them, they'll look at you and size you up as their next meal. Meanwhile, pandas eat bamboo almost exclusively. Then there's the grizzly that prefers berries, shoots, and roots but will eat salmon when they need something more filling. And let's not forget the American black bear who probably just wants your chips and hot dogs.

Then there's the fact that bears are large animals. Some bears grow up to 11 feet tall. I had the kids look up to the ceiling and told them, "Now imagine standing in front of a bear that's two feet taller that that." Even sun bears, the smallest of the bears, grow up to 150 pounds. Yep, bears can be huge!

So what was the real surprise? Did you know that bear do NOT hibernate? Nope, they don't! The sleeping that they do is not considered true hibernation. True hibernation, like that done by chipmunks, involves drastically reduce heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature. Those chipmunks for example breathe at a rate of 95 breaths per minute. During hibernation, their breathing rate drops to about one breath every two or three minutes. Their body temperature drops from 99 degrees to 39 degrees. Their heart rate drops significantly, as well. Hibernating animals are very difficult to arouse because of this. Bears, on the other hand, do not have this drop in breathing rate, heart rate, and body temperature; it remains the same as it would be during normal sleep. Bears also are easy to awaken and many will awaken during the winter for various reasons. Many females wake up to give birth before she, and her cubs, go back to sleep. So, what the bears are really doing is just sleeping a long time. It's called dormancy. I was shocked by this information as I was always taught that bears hibernate for the winter.

I couldn't help but comment to my husband that I was glad homeschool curriculum provides more truth than public school curriculum. This isn't the first time we've found our curriculum teaching things that we have never heard about or had been taught something totally different from the truth. At least our kids will learn more and better than we did.

What about you? What were you taught about bears? Did you know that they didn't hibernate? Have you learned things that you were surprised by?

Check out wikipedia for more about dormancy. It was my source for the chipmunk information.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Luke Holzmann said...

I was not aware of the distinction between hibernation and dormancy. Fascinating.

I know I've learned many mistruths over the years, but it's often rather hard to unravel to web to find the truth.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I knew bears do not truely hibernate, but I didn't learn that in school. LOL