One of the many criticisms of the Genesis account of Noah’s Ark deals with the logistics of feeding and keeping all of the animals on board the Ark. Critics ask how Noah could have stored all of the different foods in sufficient quantities to last the duration of the Flood and how did 8 people care for all of the animals and clean up after them.
Dr. Carl Wieland discusses the topics of migration and hibernation and how they relate to the Flood. In his article Hibernation, Migration and the Ark, Dr. Wieland reports on a recent study that revealed that the pygmy possum, Cercartetus nanus, could under the right circumstances hibernate for as long as a year.
Dr. Wieland explains some of the problems with relying on hibernation as one of the ways the animals were kept on board the Ark during the Flood. One of those issues that he raised was whether or not the animals would have been able to store enough fat to last them a year. A recent study conducted by a group from the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Stanford University may shed some new light on the amount of body fat needed.
Members of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game captured several black bears that had strayed to close to several small villages. These bears became the subjects of the study conducted by the researchers.
The Alaska Fish and Game personnel had constructed structures that appeared similar to the natural dens the bears use. Built into the artificial dens were infrared cameras, activity detectors and remote sensing devices. Before releasing the bears, the researchers implanted a device into each bear that recorded their body temperatures, heart beats and muscle activity along with a radio transmitter to relay the data back to the researchers. With all of the monitoring devices in place, they were able to take continuous readings on the bears’ metabolic rates during and after hibernation.
Before this study, it was believed that during hibernation, the animal’s biological and chemical processes would slow down by as much as 50% for every 10ºC (18ºF) drop in the body’s temperature. However, the black bears in this study had a 75% drop in metabolic activities with only a 5º-6ºC (9º-11ºF) drop in body temperature. Even after the hibernation period ended and the bears became active, it took several weeks for their metabolic rates to return to normal.
This helps to explain how a black bear, during normal hibernation, can spend 5-7 months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating with virtually no lose of muscle tone. If a bear can go without food and water, or urinating and defecating for up to 7 months and not lose any muscle mass under normal conditions today, would it have been possible to do so for a year on the Ark?
The results of this study could offer one possible solution to the problems of animal care and feeding on board the Ark. Since bears are not the only animals that hibernate, the results of this study may apply to a number of the animals on board the Ark, not just bears. However, not all animals hibernate so one needs to be careful not to take these results too far.
This study may spark new interest in the idea of animal hibernation during the Flood, but it does not answer all of the logistical problems pointed out by Dr. Wieland such as many animals do not demonstrate the instinctive behavior of hibernation. Therefore, it may be best to use caution in extrapolating this study and the study on the pygmy possum to all of the animals on the Ark.
Bears Uncouple Temperature and Metabolism for Hibernation, New Study, Science Daily, Feb. 18, 2011.
Surprising Metabolic Slowdown in Hibernating Bears, Red Orbit, Feb. 18, 2011.
Wieland, Carl, Hibernation, Migration and the Ark, Creation.com, Dec. 12, 2007.