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Diving Seals and Meditating YogisStrategic Metabolic Retreats$
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Robert Elsner

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226246710

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226247045.001.0001

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Strategic metabolic retreats

Strategic metabolic retreats

(p.1) 1 Strategic metabolic retreats
Diving Seals and Meditating Yogis

Robert Elsner

University of Chicago Press

This chapter provides a brief overview of the biology of survival and well-being, focusing on animal adaptations—tolerating unfavorable environments by lowering their energetic requirements and withdrawing into states of depressed metabolism. Animals in these withdrawn states are less dependent upon their customary levels of oxygen consumption, temporarily lessening their need for that life-sustaining resource, later resuming normal activity when conditions become more favorable. The extraordinary variations with which animal adaptations are expressed give evidence of the vast range of environments in which life can be accommodated. Some seal species can suspend breathing for more than an hour while diving deep in near-freezing temperatures and darkness, thriving in an aquatic world by reactions far beyond human abilities. Moreover, hibernating mammals—ground squirrels, bears, and others—avoid the hazards of seasonal food scarcity and thermal extremes by withdrawing from activity and entering into deep torpor, sometimes approaching freezing levels of body temperature with much-reduced metabolism and respiration.

Keywords:   survival, animal adaptations, depressed metabolism, seals, hibernating animals, reduced respiration

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