Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

( 7 )


From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, and from torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions.

Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter land-scape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to ...

See more details below
This Paperback (Reprint) is Not Available through
Winter World

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
Note: This is a bargain book and quantities are limited. Bargain books are new but may have slight markings from the publisher and/or stickers showing their discounted price. More about bargain books


From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, and from torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions.

Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter land-scape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to survive, Heinrich's Winter World awakens the largely undiscovered mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter's harsh, cruel exigencies.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
How do bears, bees, frogs and other creatures stay alive in a barren, subzero landscape? A veteran natural history author and University of Vermont biology professor, Heinrich (Mind of the Raven) uses the New England winter as a laboratory for investigating the adaptability and evolution of animals. In short, dense, lucid chapters that will intrigue both natural history buffs and neophytes, Heinrich discusses the survival strategies-such as hibernation and nest building-of mammals, birds and reptiles. He shows how bears endure months of hibernation without losing muscle mass or bone density, how an air-breathing snapping turtle survives six months at the bottom of a frozen pond and how honeybees keep the temperature in their hives at a balmy 36 degrees Celsius no matter how cold it is outside. The narrative is full of exuberant first-person observations from Heinrich's walks through the Maine and Vermont woods ("I hit the tree with an ax. One flying squirrel with huge black eyes and soft gray pelage popped its head out.... After I started to climb the tree I saw three heads looking out. No-it was four!"), and he reflects on such subjects as the ethics of hunting and the implications of animal survival strategies-particularly the bear's ability to stay in shape without exercise-for human health. Throughout the book, Heinrich returns to the example of the mysterious golden-crowned kinglet, a bird whose tiny body-not much bigger than a walnut-loses heat so quickly that it seems to defy the rules of winter survival, and whose perseverance symbolizes the improbable, miraculous feats of endurance of all the animals of the north. Nature lovers will delight in this lively, fascinating study. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This account of how wild animals survive in cold winters is based in large part on the writer's own astute observations of the behavior of a variety of species of birds, squirrels, mice, insects, and other creatures. Heinrich (biology, Univ. of Vermont; Mind of the Raven) has a cabin and property in the Maine woods, which often serves as a living laboratory for him and his students. One of his special interests, which he discusses at length here, is how the tiny golden-crowned kinglet, a bird not much larger than a hummingbird, survives the long, harsh winters of New England. Heinrich is constantly observing and asking questions about what he sees, giving readers an inside glimpse at the workings of science and nature. At times, he also relates the research of other scientists, always in understandable English. A more scholarly, less personal treatment of this subject is provided by Peter J. Marchand's Life in the Cold: An Introduction to Winter Ecology, now in its third edition. Heinrich's book is recommended for public and undergraduate college libraries.-William H. Wiese, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An array of ways to beat the cold when central heating isn’t an option, from National Book Award nominee Heinrich (Racing the Antelope, 2001, etc.).

The cleverness of evolutionary design is everywhere on display in this look at how animals cope with winter. Like the good teacher he must be at the University of Vermont, Heinrich takes pains to be clear, laying a groundwork of information for what follows. He starts at the molecular level, explaining the properties of water and the difference between heat and temperature, then providing an outline of various life-maintenance techniques used by creatures from insects to bears--methods that include aestivation and brumation, freezing point depression, antifreeze, ice-nucleation sites, thermal hyteresis, and supercooling, all allowing these organisms to survive the "regularly occurring famine" that winter brings on its heels. Heinrich’s description of snow’s thermal qualities makes it understandable that a broad range of animals use it for insulation, but what he clearly delights in are the startling discoveries resulting from fieldwork undertaken by both himself and others. We learn about the differing bill morphologies of birds, about the spring peepers and chorus frogs that freeze solid after suffusing their cells with glucose, the arctic ground squirrels that heat up from their torpor to get a little REM sleep, and the chronobiology of flying squirrels as they set their internal clocks without external cues. There’s the role of camouflage, as in the weasel turning white, and the unique architecture of birds’ nests ("the more different or exotic the nest appearances there are for different species, the less any one would stand out topredators"), not to mention the many insects, whose "success is derived from exploiting individual specificity." Heinrich relates each creature’s method as a story, slowly revealing its canny, outrageous, or dumbfounding aspects--letting the reader sit back and marvel.

The stories are plain engrossing--in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration. (Drawings throughout)

From the Publisher
"The stories are plain engrossing—-in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration." —-Kirkus
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641898396
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/23/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mel Foster has narrated over 150 audiobooks and has won several awards. Twice an Audie finalist for 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelen Flood and Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey, he won for the latter title.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
A Note on Terms and Definitions 7
1 Fire and Ice 13
2 Snow and the Subnivian Space 21
3 A Late Winter Walk 33
4 Tracking a Weasel 47
5 Nests and Dens 55
6 Flying Squirrels in a Huddle 79
7 Hibernating Squirrels (Heating Up to Dream) 95
8 The Kinglet's Feathers 109
9 The Kinglet's Winter Fuel 119
10 Hibernating Birds 131
11 Torpid Turtles under Ice 145
12 Iced-in Water Rodents 157
13 Frozen Frogs on Ice 169
14 Insects: From the Diversity to the Limits 177
15 Mice in Winter 199
16 Supercool(ed) Houseguests (with and without Antifreeze) 207
17 Of Bats and Butterflies and Cold Storage 217
18 Aggregating for Winter 229
19 Winter Flocks 239
20 Berries Preserved 247
21 Bears in Winter 255
22 Storing Food 263
23 Bees' Winter Gamble 275
24 Winter Buds 291
25 The Kinglets' Key? 299
References 317
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Winter World
The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

Chapter One

Fire and Ice

Microscopic life evolved some 3.5 billion years ago in the Precambrian period during the first and longest chapter of life that covers about 90 percent of geological time. No one knows exactly what the earth was like when microbial life began but we do know that at some time the earth was a hot and hellish place with an atmosphere that lacked oxygen. Early microbes, probably bluegreen algae or bacterialike organisms, invented photosynthesis to harness sunlight as a source of energy. They took carbon dioxide out of the air as their food, and they generated oxygen as a waste product that further transformed the atmosphere and hence the climate. They developed DNA for storing information, invented sex, which produced variation for natural selection, and evolution took off on its unending and largely unpredictable course.

Molecular fingerprinting suggests that every life-form on earth today originated from the same bacterialike ancestor. That ancestor eventually led to the three main surviving branches of life, the archaea, bacteria, and the eukaryotes (the organisms made of cells with a nucleus that include algae, plants, fungi, and animals).

Remnants of the first ancient pre-oxygen-using life may still exist little-changed today. They are thought to be sulphur-consuming bacteria now living only in the few remaining places where the ancient and to us hellish conditions still remain. These habitats include hot springs and deep oceanic thermal vents where water at 300°C (that stays liquid there rather than turning to steam because it is under intense pressure in depths of some 3,600 meters) issues up from the ocean floor. One of the species living at the edge of these hot water vents is Pyrolobus fumarii, which can't grow unless heated to at least 90°C, and which it tolerates 113°C. As the earth cooled new environments became available and new single-celled and then multicelled organisms evolved from these or similar species to invade ever-new and cooler environments.

Some cells much later also escaped their ancestral conditions by invading other cells, finding that environment conducive for survival and adapting to it. Such initially parasitic organisms ultimately evolved into cooperative or symbiotic relationships with their hosts. Perhaps the most fateful of these eventually mutually beneficial associations occurred when some Precambrian green algae successfully grew inside other cells, to ultimately become chloroplasts, while their hosts then became green plants.

The ability to capture solar energy that ushered in the multicellular life and the fantastic diversity of life we see today was followed by or concurrent with one other critical parasitic-turned-symbiotic cellular invasion. The availability of oxygen from plants led to energy and oxygen-guzzling bacteria, and when some of these invaded other cells they became mitochondria and their hosts became animals.

Mitochondria are the cell's source of power or energy-use, and having mitochondria with access to oxygen allowed vastly greater rates of energy expenditure. It made the evolution of multicellular animals possible. One of the ultimate expressions of the high-energy way of life that is powered by the use of mitochondria is, of course, animals like the kinglets that maintain a liveness at an, to us, almost unimaginably high and sustained rate through a northern winter.

The metabolic fires generated by the mitochondria can be fanned to run on high, given the availability of much oxygen, or they may be turned down low. Life is the process that harnesses, and more importantly, controls that fire. It produces heat, and heat is often synonymous with life.

Temperature is, to us, a sensation measured on a scale of hot to cold. Physically, it is molecular motion, and we can measure it with a thermometer because the greater the motion of the molecules of a substance, say mercury, the farther apart they are spaced. We measure this molecular expansion as mercury (or some other liquid) in a column is displaced up a calibrated scale. The molecular motion, as such, is not life but a prerequisite for it.

Heat, on the other hand, is the energy that goes in or out of the system to change temperature. Some substances must absorb more energy (from the sun for example) before their molecules are set into motion, raising the temperature. One calorie is the unit of energy defined to raise one gram of water one degree Celsius. Substances, like rock, heat up with much less energy than that required to heat water. Again, energy is not life, but a prerequisite for it, and life is insatiable for it. What is truly miraculous, therefore, is that life continues and even thrives in winter, when the sun is low.

There is no upper limit of temperature. Within our solar system, the surface temperature of the sun is about 6,000°C; the center is about 3,000 times higher, or 18,000,000°C. The lower temperature limit in the universe, on the other hand, is finite. It's the point at which all molecular motion stops and the heat energy content is zero. That temperature precludes living, but from adaptations to the winter world that I will discuss, it need not destroy life. Life can, at least theoretically, persist on hold at the lowest temperature in the universe.

Our centigrade scale is defined as a 100-arbitrary-unit division of heat energy content of water, between when water molecules leave the crystal structure to become liquid (0°C) and 100°C when the liquid water boils at sea level. The zero energy content of matter, or lowest temperature limit in the universe, is defined as 0°K on the Kelvin scale and it corresponds to -273.15°C or -459.7° on the Fahrenheit scale. Since life as we know it is water-based, the active cellular life that most of us are familiar with is restricted to the very narrow temperature range between the freezing and boiling points of water (which vary somewhat depending on pressure and presence of dissolved solutes) where the controlled rates of energy use become possible. We are composed mostly of water ...

Winter World
The Ingenuity of Animal Survival
. Copyright © by Bernd Heinrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide


In Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, biologist, illustrator, and award-winning author Bernd Heinrich explores his local woods, where he delights in the seemingly infinite feats of animal inventiveness he discovers. From flying hot-blooded squirrels and diminutive kinglets to sleeping black bears and frozen insects, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Some develop antifreeze; others must remain in constant motion to maintain their high body temperatures. Even if animals can avoid freezing to death, they must still manage to find food in a time of scarcity, or store it from a time of plenty.

Beautifully illustrated throughout with the author's delicate drawings and infused by his inexhaustible enchantment with nature, Winter World awakens the wonders and mysteries by which nature sustains itself through winter's harsh, cruel exigencies.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Throughout Winter World, Jack London's story, "To Build a Fire," which is about a foolish man in winter, is used as a backdrop for adaptations numerous animals have made. Why do you think the author returns to this story so often? What does it say about the superiority of humans to animals?

  2. Beavers can live under ice for up to six months. While hibernating, bears mysteriously suffer no bone or muscle loss, and do not need water. Kinglet pairs simultaneously raise two broods of eight to ten young each. Chipmunks build a 12-foot burrow system. Turtles can live up to a year without food. Nutcrackers collect as many as 30,000 pine seeds for storage in caches up to 15 kilometers away from each other -- and remember where to find 80 percent of them. Which animal described in Winter World impresses you the most for its ability to survive winter? Why?

  3. Discuss the drive certain people have to forgo the comforts of the modern world in order to get closer to nature. Could you see yourself as one of those people? Would you be able to live in a primitive cabin in Maine in the winter like the author does?

  4. "Scientific discoveries, like most surprises, come by luck, and luck comes by keeping moving and having a keen nose to detect anomalies." The author makes some of his most profound discoveries this way. Is it luck or is it persistence coupled with the ability to see and decipher? Have you ever discovered something by luck? What was it?

  5. Heinrich's father sold fleas to the Rothschilds and periodically set mice free in his house to demonstrate his pet weasel's hunting ability to guests. What do you imagine their day-to-day life or dinner conversation was like? How do you think it influenced the author? What does the author reveal about his home life now as an adult?

  6. Hibernation and other winter adaptations may offer insight into numerous human medical matters, including stroke, aging, space flight, and osteoporosis. Heinrich strongly believes that research should be pure, out of intellectual curiosity, not conducted for applied purposes. Do you agree with him? Why or why not? Are these two concepts diametrically opposed?

  7. Heinrich has an extremely high tolerance for infestations -- the carpenter ants that for years threatened to destroy his house and thousands of ladybugs that would try to crawl into his family's eyes at night. Is this taking a respect for nature too far? Could you live with these pests? What is the worst infestation you can imagine or have heard of?

  8. We learn that coagulated hardened bird spit is considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures. What are some other surprising things people eat?

About the Author

Bernd Heinrich is the author of Mind of the Raven, which won the John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing and was a New York Times and Los Angeles Times Notable Book as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Science and Technology Award. He is also the author of Bumblebee Economics, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and The Trees in My Forest, which won a New England Book Award. A professor of biology at the University of Vermont, Heinrich also spends time in the forests of western Maine, where he has done much of his field research and training for ultramarathons.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)