Thought so. Quite honestly, neither had I – at least before I traveled to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (I have published more photographs from that trip on this, this and this previous posts). Up there, beyond Inuit, caribou, wolves, arctic hare, the occasional polar bear and billions of mosquitoes and black flies you can find… sik-siks, which is the kind of cute sounding way Inuit call arctic ground squirrels because of the sound they make.
Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) are the largest and northernest among North American ground squirrels. They seek shelter from the frigid tundra temperatures by building a maze of burrows in areas where the permafrost does not prevent digging.
Throughout the long acrtic winters sik-siks hibernate for 7 to 8 months a year. Now get ready for a super cool fact: “Researchers at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks have shown that during hibernation, arctic ground squirrels adopt the lowest body temperature ever measured in a mammal. [Their] body temperature […] drops below freezing, a condition referred to as supercooling. At intervals of two to three weeks, still in a state of sleep, hibernating squirrels shiver and shake for 12 to 15 hours to create heat that warms them back to a normal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit [(about 36.5 degrees Celsius)]. When the shivering and shaking stops, body temperature drops back to the minimal temperature” (quoted from the Denali page of the National Park Service’s Web site).
By the way, I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my images of rodents and lagomorphs (i.e., rabbits and hares – no pikas, sorry): feel free to go take a look if you feel like it!
If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.
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