More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Sleeping Patterns of Hummingbirds

There are some topics you probably never thought you'd be interested in, including the nocturnal habits of hummingbirds. But there exists a YouTube video that is so fascinating (read: adorable), it begs exploration of this topic. In the video, a green female hummingbird slumbers, and with every one of its tiny breaths, the bird lets out a high-pitched sigh, making it appear as though it is ... snoring.

So, what exactly is going on here? Do hummingbirds actually snore?

"Maybe … sort of … but not for the same reasons we do," says Joe Hanson at his (awesomely named) blog, It's Okay to be Smart. We humans snore when our airways are obstructed during sleep. The story behind this bird is much cooler.

The video was taken at a Peru research facility while the hummingbird slept in a special container meant to measure its oxygen intake. The goal of this experiment was to examine the metabolism of hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds beat their wings between 12 and 80 times per second, depending on the species. To make up for all that lost energy, the creatures consume the human equivalent of a refrigerator full of food every day. Unlike other birds, hummingbirds don't have insulating feathers to keep them warm, thus they are incredibly vulnerable when cold weather strikes. To keep themselves from freezing, at night, hummingbirds slip into a kind of hibernation, called torpor. This state allows them to lower their internal temperature and consume up to 50 times less energy. "This way, they aren’t burning calories on cold nights when they aren’t able to eat and recharge," Hanson says. The birds' brains power down, and their breathing becomes so shallow as to be almost undetectable. Torpid hummingbirds are sleeping so deeply, it looks like they're dead.

To awaken from such a deep state of hibernation takes some time—about 20 minutes, actually. The heartbeat increases, normal breathing patterns resume, and the birds begin to shiver, which helps warm their muscles and increase bloodflow. Hanson hypothesizes the bird in this video is in a state of awakening, "starting to breathe in more oxygen to raise its body temperature," and making a "snoring" noise in the process.

Enough science! For your entertainment, here are some other snoring animals.

A pig:

A bunny:

A doormouse:

A duck:

What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder

From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter

Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]


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