Bears – Overview

Science Diary: Bears – Overview

Music; Ambience: grizzly bear snorting and snapping jaw

JM: Virtually all living things are influenced by the rhythms of nature. One of the most dramatic examples is a hibernating grizzly bear, whose systems all but shut down for the winter months. But how bears take their cues from the environment is a bit of a mystery, even for neuroscientists. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Heiko Jansen studies bears at Washington State University. Right now we’re listening to sounds of a wide awake grizzly bear.

HJ: “What we’re focusing on at the moment is trying to understand how seasonal signals, like changes in day length, help to synchronize the bears’ behavior, which, as you know, is very stereotypical in terms of, you know, during the summer months eating a lot of food, gaining a lot of weight, and then, in the winter months hibernating. We have some very basic scientific questions, and they all deal around a core principle, which is biological rhythms. And these can take the form of annual rhythms rhythms that occur every year on a recurring basis and also daily rhythms, so rhythms that are generated, as we know in most animals, by mechanisms in the brain to give us our typical sorts of daily behaviors in things like eating and sleeping and waking and a whole host of other rhythms that we all express. And so, it’s this interplay between seasonal signals and daily signals that we think the bears are keenly utilizing to make their physiology so adaptable and so unique.”

JM: Heiko Jansen’s team is analyzing bears’ chemical and hormonal changes to see how they coincide with the change of seasons. This could give them clues on how to deal with some human sleep disorders. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are presented by the National Science Foundation.

Bears - Overview

What biological mechanisms tell a bear when it's time to hunker down for the winter and awaken in the spring?
Air Date:06/15/2015
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Science Diary: Bears - Overview

Music; Ambience: grizzly bear snorting and snapping jaw

JM: Virtually all living things are influenced by the rhythms of nature. One of the most dramatic examples is a hibernating grizzly bear, whose systems all but shut down for the winter months. But how bears take their cues from the environment is a bit of a mystery, even for neuroscientists. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Heiko Jansen studies bears at Washington State University. Right now we're listening to sounds of a wide awake grizzly bear.

HJ: "What we're focusing on at the moment is trying to understand how seasonal signals, like changes in day length, help to synchronize the bears' behavior, which, as you know, is very stereotypical in terms of, you know, during the summer months eating a lot of food, gaining a lot of weight, and then, in the winter months hibernating. We have some very basic scientific questions, and they all deal around a core principle, which is biological rhythms. And these can take the form of annual rhythms rhythms that occur every year on a recurring basis and also daily rhythms, so rhythms that are generated, as we know in most animals, by mechanisms in the brain to give us our typical sorts of daily behaviors in things like eating and sleeping and waking and a whole host of other rhythms that we all express. And so, it's this interplay between seasonal signals and daily signals that we think the bears are keenly utilizing to make their physiology so adaptable and so unique."

JM: Heiko Jansen's team is analyzing bears' chemical and hormonal changes to see how they coincide with the change of seasons. This could give them clues on how to deal with some human sleep disorders. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are presented by the National Science Foundation.