This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Thing To Do Today If You Get Half A Chance: be torpid.

Birds do it, bats do it, even educated rats do it - let's do it, let's...

...sink into a torpor.

We humans aren't bad at sinking into torpors. A large lunch is usually enough to send adults, at least, into a state of blissful inactivity.

Female crocodiles are just the same during their short egg-laying season (who discovered that, I wonder? Of all the research projects to get lumbered with, poking crocdiles to see how fast they react must be one of the dodgiest).

We and the crocodiles are amateurs, however, compared with some hummingbirds. They don't just stop moving, as we do, but actually slow their heartbeat and lower their body temperature every night to stop themselves starving.

Jumping mice and groundhogs do the same thing, but for a whole winter.

Lungfish will sink into a torpor, too, though not because they've got no food, but because their pond is drying up. They make themselves a tight cocoon and stop doing anything much (except breathe air - they really are odd fish) until it rains and they can start doing their splashy fishy thing again.

Hm. Perhaps we should be sending trained lungfish on the next Mars mission.

That, or make sure the astronauts have a really enormous lunch before they go.

Thing To Do Today After Lunch If You Get Half A Chance: be torpid. This word comes from the Latin torpēre, which means to be numb or motionless.

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