Friday, September 2, 2011

A term in biology: hyperphagia season

In medical context, hyperphagia is defined as “an increased appetite for and consumption of food, thought to be associated with a lesion or injury in the hypothalamus.” In general, biological terms, hyperphagia simply means over-eating [1]. Hyperphagia season is the season of over-eating. This is the season during which hibernating animals prepare for the cold season by consuming excess food, gaining weight, and putting on fat to be ready for a period of inactivity.

For example, Cheryl Lyn Dybas illustrates the hyperphagia season of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Minnesota [2]: the bears build up their fat reserves for winter by eating their fills of acorns, hazelnuts, chokeberries and other treats. Dybas mentions that during this time bears are more likely to come near people and residential areas, especially if natural foods are scarce. Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) also increase their food intake as the period of hibernation approaches [3].

References and more to explore
[1] The Free Dictionary:
[2] Cheryl Lyn Dybas: A Frenzy of Bears. Its “hyperphagia season” in Minnesota. Natural History July/August 2011, 119 (7), 22-29 [].
[3] The Grizzly or Brown Bear [].

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