What’s your reaction when you look out the window and every visible surface is buried in snow and ice? Some people feel excited, but a lot of folks feel downright dejected.
Frigid winter weather can make you wish you had some way to snooze until spring. Residents in colder climates sometimes describe feelings of drowsiness, dreariness and even mild depression.
But evidently, alligators have devised the perfect solution.
It’s called “brumation” and it recently made 18 American alligators into seasonal social media sensations.
Not that they’re aware of it, mind you. These oblivious reptiles are too busy staying utterly immobile underneath frozen water.
The Shallotte River Swamp Park is located in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. This 65-acre outdoor adventure center and sanctuary recently posted a YouTube video illustrating how area alligators cope with unusually chilly regional temperatures.
At first glance, you simply see a bunch of enormous snouts and toothy grins poking through the slushy water’s surface. Admittedly, it does look somewhat bizarre.
Park general manager George Howard told The Charlotte Observer that alligators appear to sense when the water is nearing its freezing point. He explains that they project their noses into the air “at just the right moment.”
ABC affiliate WGNO reports that alligators tend to go wherever it’s warmest. “The alligators went into the water last week during the ‘bomb cyclone’ that hit the East Coast. The water in the swamp was warmer than the air,” Howard said.
Howard further explained that the alligators remained suspended in a state of brumation. It’s similar to hibernation, but not exactly the same.
The Science Alert website says that during brumation, a cold-blooded reptile’s metabolism slows down considerably. In response to extremely frosty temperatures, their body then enters a lethargic state.
It’s not quite the deep and consistent sleep of hibernation, which is observed seasonally in certain warm-blooded creatures. Science Alert explains that normally, alligators would brumate toward the bottom of a swamp and actually rise for air and/or hydration occasionally.
But the icy bomb cyclone apparently prompted these particular alligators to fine-tune their survival tactics. Positioning their snouts above the water’s frozen surface provides consistent access to air, for the duration of the frigid weather.
Live Science explains that because alligators are cold-blooded, they’re completely unable to control their internal temperature. So when they feel hot, they typically cool off by swimming.
Of course, when they feel chilled, they normally lounge in the sun. But balmy sunshine is generally in short supply during a bomb cyclone.
The Charlotte Observer reported that the Shallotte River alligators first chose to weather freezing conditions in this manner last January. Those enterprising reptiles thawed out several days later with no apparent ill effects, Howard said.
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