Study: Early humans may have survived harsh winter conditions by hibernating!
It’s normal for people to sleep a little more than they used to during the winter, as less exposure to light signals the body to produce melatonin, the hormone that causes sleepiness.
And while many of us may crave winter sleep, humans, unlike many other mammals, cannot hibernate.
But a recently published study examined whether early humans had this ability at some point. And the results, while surprisingly preliminary, showed that early humans did just that, even if they weren’t very good at it.
And some scientists believe the ability to hibernate could have a range of potential benefits, from preventing damage from heart attack and stroke to preventing starvation and even space travel.
Dr. Marina Blanco, a researcher at Duke University in the US who has studied hibernation in pygmy lemurs, told Good Health: with serious infections, preventing organ damage and increasing life expectancy.”
And when it comes to injuries, the problem is that when blood flow to tissues that have been blocked suddenly returns, as after a heart attack or stroke, it can cause fatal shock.
But studies in mice have shown that keeping them cool as blood flow returns to their veins greatly reduces shock, says Dr. Michael Ambler, a clinical lecturer at the University of Bristol.
One of the main reasons for this is that cold “reduces metabolic activity in the mitochondria, which are essentially the powerhouses within the cell,” says Ambler.
When the blood returns, the mitochondria are rapidly activated, leading to the formation of potentially harmful by-products. Slowing their restart after blood flow is restored means reducing body temperature and protecting vital organs from this massive activity.
Hibernation is a state of minimal activity and a slow metabolism that some animals, such as hedgehogs, bats, and brown bears, fall into, and are characterized by low heart rate, body temperature, and reduced oxygen consumption. This allows these animals to endure periods of cold and food shortages, and this can last for days, weeks, or even months, depending on the species.
Some animals also go into a similar but shorter state called circadian hibernation, which can be an important part of energy conservation at any time of the year and is unrelated to the seasons.
This reduces body temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, metabolic rate.
But unlike hibernation, daytime torpor appears to be an involuntary state that an animal enters when it needs to conserve energy—for example, when food is scarce, many birds and small rodents like mice and hamsters regularly go into hibernation.
However, it is not only animals that do this. And bone evidence from one of the most important paleontological sites in the world, a cave called Sima de los Huesos (The Pit of Bones) in Atapuerca in northern Spain, now suggests that hundreds of thousands of years ago, early humans may have fled. . severe cold, sleeping through the winter.
According to an article published in the journal L’Anthropologies, the fossils in the cave show seasonal fluctuations, indicating that bone growth was interrupted for several months of the year.
The researchers state that these early humans ended up “in a metabolic state that helped them survive for long periods of time in extremely cold environments with a limited food supply and adequate body fat stores. In other words, they were in a state of hibernation. “
And while people don’t hibernate right now, or hibernate every day, there’s growing evidence that we can run biological hardware to do this.
“Humans, like other mammals, may already have a biological hibernation mechanism, but we need to figure out how to activate, regulate and coordinate all the necessary processes. This mechanism is basically information stored in our genes,” explains Dr. Blanco. .
Source: Daily Mail