Asked by: Harry Tanner, Hampshire
Hibernation is a response to cold weather and reduced food availability. Most animals that hibernate are quite small and, as the weather gets colder, they reach the point where they simply can’t eat enough food to sustain their body temperature.
Humans don’t hibernate for two reasons. Firstly, our evolutionary ancestors were tropical animals with no history of hibernating: humans have only migrated into temperate and sub-arctic latitudes in the last hundred thousand years or so. That’s not quite long enough to evolve all the metabolic adaptations we would need to be able to hibernate.
Much more importantly though, we discovered fire, clothes, shelter, hunting and agriculture, all of which are much more effective ways of surviving the cold. Any ancient tribes that tried to sleep their way through the winter would quickly have been ousted by the guys with the fur clothes sitting around the camp fire in the next cave along.
Subscription offers you will love!
- Spread the cost and pay just £3.50 per issue when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Alternatively, lock in for longer and pay just £37.99 per year, saving 51%!
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.