Friday, 23 November 2007

Extreme Environments

Some exist in a comatose-like state. Some manufacture their own anti-freeze. Animals and plants have a variety of extraordinary adaptations to survive in extreme cold, which Mark Carwardine discovers in the first of this new series.

One creature he examines is the arctic ground squirrel, which has to hibernate for eight months of the year because of the arctic winter. The squirrel is not sleeping, but becoming a "supercooler". Its body temperature drops to zero and its heartbeat drops from 200 to just six beats a minute, yet none of this strains the squirrel's body. This supression of their system may in future help medical staff treat trauma and stroke patients, and to realise how difficult humans find it to survive in freezing temperatures, Mark records part of the programme in an environment simulation chamber at minus 23 degrees centigrade. Not an easy task.

Listen to Some Like It Cold (BBC Radio programme).

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