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You’d think that the asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago with enough force to wipe out the dinosaurs would be tough to sleep through. But a new study suggests that the ability to engage in extended hibernation might be what saved ancestral mammals from extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. The hypothesis is in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (B).
It’s thought that global wildfires engulfed the planet for a year or more after the Chicxulub impact. That’s a long time to stay out of harm’s way. Small mammals most likely burrowed underground.
But could they last that long without coming up for air? Yes if they were hibernating.
We know that bears can sleep through winter. But rabbit-sized Madagascar mammals called tenrecs have got that beat. Researchers tagged two dozen tenrecs with devices that recorded their body temp. And then released back in the wild.
Most of the tenrecs got killed by dogs or snakes or poachers. But a couple tunneled into the sand where they proceeded to snooze until the researchers dug them up nine months later.
The findings reveal that on occasion the best way to make it through a crisis is to just take a long nap.