Hibernation: How animals prepare for winter

Many animals are getting ready for the long, cold months of winter. They’ve probably have spent most of the fall season gathering all the food they could possibly collect to prepare for hibernation. But what are the preparations for the winter?

According to Webster dictionary, hibernation is

“to be or become inactive or dormant”

or a better way to look at this is animals take a very long winter vacation. During hibernation, animals that perform this condition have lower body temperature, conserve energy by decreasing physical mobility, and decrease metabolic rate. These types of animals conserve energy by reducing their metabolism, a chemical process that converts stored fat into energy.

Studies have shown that animals, which hibernate, have a decrease in heart rate, causing a slow down of their metabolism. And, in this way, these animals are able to use their stored fat and convert it to energy. That’s why bears, in particular, eat sufficient foods like nuts, berries, insects, fish, roots and other foods to increase their body mass and fat. Foods rich in fat content are salmon and nuts.

Hibernating bear sleeping in a cave

Fatty acids, special components in these foods, are biochemically converted to energy precursors like glycerol. Fat also serves as a great insulator. Since the cold winter months lack the provision of food due to weather change, these animals must hibernate in secluded areas to keep warm and survive until the spring season.

For some animals, it is also a reproduction stage, where they await the birth of their offspring. Examples of animals that hibernate are mammals like bears, bats, hamsters, skunks, and raccoons. In particular, bears that hibernate are polar bears, black bears, and grizzly bears to name a few common species. These animals live in very cold weather where the winter season can last up to 6 months.

The places bears like to hibernate are caves or dens to keep other predators away and protect their offspring when spring comes. Bears and other animals get ready for winter by gathering and hunting for food.

5 top wind farms as makers of renewable energy

Wind with its power can produce enough energy to light up a city, provide energy for a factory, and even fly a kite. With something so remarkable as wind power, it is also a marker of the seasons changing. Actually, wind is the forces of air that flows along waters. According to the U.S. Energy Information, wind is just simply air in motion.

Wind is created upon how fast land and water on Earth are heated. As land is heated much faster than water, the cooler air interacts with warmer air, creating wind. But why is wind such an important renewable energy source?

Wind has been a renewal energy resource for centuries. Wind was used by early Egyptians to carry them overseas and windmills were created to pump water and used to produce food. By the 1920s, windmills were common manufacturers of electricity. But within a decade, power lines and the consumption of fossil fuel replaced them as energy sources. However, nowadays, with concerns of lack of fossil fuel and its detrimental effect on the environment, there are more and more wind farms or wind plants throughout the world.

courtesy of iStockphoto

The top wind farms in the world are:

1. Roscoe Wind Farm located in Roscoe, Texas in the United States, produces 781.5 MW (MegaWatts). This wind farm began as a project in 2007. It provides enough energy for 60,000 homes. It is estimated that by 2015, Roscoe Wind Farms will provide over 5,000 MW in new renewal energy for Texas. This powerhouse has led to future projects close to Abilene, Texas and to the Champion project, a 126 MW wind farm.

2. Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center located in Texas, produces 735.5 MW. It covers almost 47,000 acres of land in the counties of Taylor and Nolan in northwest Texas.

3. Walney Wind Farm located in the United Kingdom, produces 367 MW. It is located 15 km (approximately 9 miles) offshore of Walney Island, Cumbria of the United Kingdom shoreline. It consists of 2 Walney Wind Farms. Walney 2 began operation on November 2011. And Walney 1 recently started operation in February 2012. It produces enough energy to supply 320,000 homes.

4. Thanet Offshore Wind Project located 12 km (approximately 7 miles) from the Foreness Point on the eastern side of Kent in the United Kingdom produces 300 MW. It supplies enough energy for 200,000 homes. It is one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world housing 100 turbines that covers an area of 35 square km (13 square miles).

5. Gansu Wind Farm located in western region of China is proposed to harness 20,000 MW by 2020. This wind farm project began in 2008. By 2010, it produced more than 5,000 MW. This project is also referred to as the Jiuquan Wind Power Base.

Renewable energy sources are among us everyday. With the signal of climate change, wind provides the type of renewable energy that can be seen throughout the world. This type of clean energy source is harnessed in wind farms.

Could you see wind farms where you live? What type of energy source do you see where you live?

Habitat and fun facts about iguanas in the desert

Is it possible to observe iguanas in the arid, dry climate of the desert? As a matter of fact, Desert Iguanas or Dipsosaurus dorsalis are native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of the Southwestern region of the United States. They can also be found in the Northwestern areas of Mexico.

The Desert Iguana is a small reptile of about 10 – 16 inches long, with an extensive tail. Additionally, their bodies have tan and white scales, with sharp front and back claws, suitable for climbing trees. Although iguanas are most commonly found in tropical habitats, these reptiles have adapted well to the dry conditions of the desert.

Desert iguanas are considered herbivores, mainly feeding on low-lying plants, flowers and small bushes like the Creosote bush, cactus flowers, and mesquite trees. They prefer nearby bushes where they can eat the leaves and flowers, consuming them for their high water content and potassium.

courtesy of iStockphoto

These lizards possess special glands that help them secrete the high amount of potassium without losing water content. This becomes an essential survival skill in the desert habitat. Desert Iguanas are considered ectotherm reptiles, an ability to regulate body temperature from external energy sources. They particularly like to bask or lay in the desert sun when their body temperatures are low. To regulate their body temperature, these reptiles furthermore use burrows, which are holes in the ground dug by other animals.

When typical desert temperatures increase to 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more, these animals are able to either seek shade under a tree or refuge in the burrows. Similarly, these deep holes present other means of survival in the desert habitat. Desert iguanas also use burrows to escape from predators such as snakes and birds. In fact, they use these holes as nesting areas. These reptiles also tend to stay close to their habitat and live close to their burrow.

Have you seen these interesting reptiles in your area?