Monday, September 14, 2009

Gophers are interesting--really!

This is the thirteen-striped gopher that the University of Minnesota athletic teams have been named after for over a hundred years.

When I was a kid, they were so plentiful we saw them everywhere. I remember when we traveled, we would count them by the dozens as they scampered along the roadsides. In parks, they would become little beggars entertaining the picnickers. Now, I haven't seen a striped gopher for years and years.

They were the bane of farmers and road-construction crews because their mounds and holes caused erosion problems. As a result, the state has been offering a bounty for their destruction for the last hundred years. They still aren't endangered and most folks wouldn't care if they were. Recently however, some Minnesota town clerks have rebelled against counting the severed feet to determine how many $2 bounties to pay out. (This begs the question, why not cut off the one tail instead of the four feet?) It's still gross but more practical.

UM-Duluth researchers have been studying the hibernation habits of the gophers. The little animals, only slightly bigger than a chipmunk, have remarkable ability to survive on 2% of their waking oxygen while their heart rate goes from 300 to 3 beats a minute. This research has resulted in a new lifesaving product called Tamiasyn. It will extend the "golden hour" for survival after strokes or blood loss emergencies. In addition, it will extend the viable period for transplanting organs.

(If you're interested in the research project, just google "Matt Andrews hibernation".)


Pearl said...

I know they're rodents, but they're cute rodents!


Sparrow chic said...

I have seen more gophers along the roadside in the last 2 yrs, then years before. I heard there was a disease that killed alot of them. Mother Nature ??

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Arrogant humans go around killing and disrespecting other living creatures! But remember this: Nature Bats Last!!!

Barbara Blundell said...

Enjoyed reading about the gophers and the development ofTamiasyn.
We have gofers but they are the minions who have to fetch and carry things