Monday, October 15, 2007

The pygmy possum: a tribute

What's better, sleeping or being awake? Exactly. As Jeremy Hardy once said, "Saying 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' is like saying 'I'll bathe when I'm drowning'."

So, as a devotee of shut-eye, El Gentraso salutes the marsupial pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus, "an opportunistic nonseasonal hibernator with a capacity for substantial fattening" (hey, before you get all judgemental, maybe it had just been through a difficult break-up, and was comforting eating, yeah?) according to Fritz Geiser of the confusingly named University of New England, in Australia.

Geiser's newly published study found that possums hibernate for an average of 310 days, with the champion snoozer clocking up 367 days. That, according to my calculations, is more than a year. I have only seen the paper's abstract, so I don't know how or why he discovered this. Do they just naturally kip this long, or did he regulate environmental conditions to induce maximum snooziness?

Either way, it's a heroic effort, both on the part of the possums, and of Geiser, for giving up a year to watch them sleep. I imagine his lab notes read: "Day 238. Possums still hibernating. Day 239..." and so on.

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