What do polar bears and Ussurian tube-nosed bats (Murina ussuriensis) have in common? Besides both being mammals (and arguably cute ones at that), it turns out that these two species both enjoy a good snooze in the snow.
Now, it is important to keep in mind that plenty of other mammals hibernate under the snow, but polar bearsand now the Ussurian tube-nosed batsare the only two species known to seek out snow dens specifically.
For years, Japanese researchers were unsure where this bat species went during the subzero winter months. Following initial anecdotal accounts, the team first observed the bats in their tiny igloos in 2013. After years of observation, researchers now believe the bats hibernate in cylindrical or cone-shaped holes under the snow.
Hirofumi Hirakawa, a wildlife biologist at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Japan and lead author of the study, believes that snow dens provide more stable temperatures than tree cavities in subzero temperatures. Other benefits of snow dens include protection from predators and reduced water loss during hibernation.
The bats will go on their merry way after the snow starts to melt and the dens become exposedafter a good long stretch, we imagine!