Brumation: Winter is coming for reptiles

Is an alligator lying still underwater, with its snout alone sticking out, alive or dead? If this is the situation, there’s a third possibility: brumation. This is the name to describe a period of dormancy or slowed activity in reptiles, much like hibernation in mammals. It typically occurs during colder months, when temperatures drop and food becomes scarce. Reptiles enter a state of brumation to conserve energy and survive these adverse environmental conditions.

During brumation, reptiles may retreat to underground burrows, rock crevices or other sheltered areas where temperatures are relatively more stable. Their metabolism slows significantly, allowing them to go weeks or even months without eating. This period of reduced activity allows reptiles to conserve energy and minimise their resource requirements.

Researchers have observed instances of brumation in various reptilian species across habitats. Such species include box turtles and painted turtles, which burrow into the mud at the bottom of ponds or lakes. Snakes may seek refuge in underground dens or caves while lizards may hide under rocks or within vegetation.

Brumation is crucial for reptiles to survive cold climes and endure challenging environmental conditions, until they can reemerge to feed and reproduce in more favourable climes.

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