Wednesday, September 27

Readers reply: why do many animals snore? | wildlife

Why do many animals snore? Making such loud noises when sleeping surely is an advertisement to any nocturnal predator that unconscious prey is close by and relatively vulnerable. Geoff Moore

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If my wife is anything to go by then it’s to mimic the sound of a giant dinosaur sleeping really close by, thereby scaring the hell out of any predators. Tintenfische

If snoring and farting did, in fact, significantly imperil the animals in question, then natural selection would have eliminated those respiratory and digestive features. The fact that snoring and farting are prevalent in many species, informs you that they do not significantly imperil the creatures. JPL_Sussex

I guess it sends an audible signal to other animals: “I am sleeping now, if danger comes, wake me up.” RECEIVE3

The animals we notice snoring are often pets or domestic animals, whose breeding is not really geared to evading predators. From the evidence of wildlife documentaries and zoos, other snorers are the likes of bears and lions, who are the predators others have to keep clear of, or maybe some who sleep deep and secure in burrows.

Snoring is parts of the upper airways, such as tongue and throat, vibrating when they are relaxed in sleep. Being overweight or sleeping in certain positions can make it louder, traits that are only likely to occur for those who are in little immediate danger of being pounced on by predators. Advertising where and how they sleep is a luxury reserved for those animals who don’t need to worry. leadballoon

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Our garden in north Nottinghamshire seems to have hibernating hedgehogs every year. Towards the end of winter they typically snore really loudly, which I would have thought was a problem for a hibernating snack. Bufospinosus

I think it was originally a problem until urban foxes worked out that, while it might look like a hibernating snack, it’s actually much like an angry ball of nails. Our cats (none of whom were prodigiously endowed when it came to mental acuity) quickly worked out that hedgehogs were more difficult to open than a can of cat food, and the reward for doing so was not worth the trip to the vet that ensued. HrDrIgelMeister

Its probably just an emergent property of sleeping when the animal’s waking super-control of everything is switched off. You continue breathing deeper and deeper while asleep and the airflow in the passageways creates a snort. This might actually be a warning to any predator that the snorer is actually not as asleep as they seem. Most animals in the wild will sleep with one eye open … kglowe

Do they snore in the wild, though? Or is it a side-effect of a far more comfortable life that are having in captivity or in people’s homes. Bear in mind that many animals in captivity (or domesticated) reach an age and a size that they would never achieve in nature and snoring has a lot to do with both. YRV2016

I doubt it is possible to snore underwater, so snoring must have evolved after our exit from the sea. Think walruses basking in the sun making the fish and oysters jealous of their extravagant respiratory raspberry blowing and you’ll get the picture. Snoring is therefore a sign of high status designed to create envy among those who cannot sleep. Holy_Ska_Dubman

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I think we make far too much of the idea that the world is predatory. Look at some of the YouTube vids that show different species helping each out for no reason or gain, but because they can. There’s plenty of room for us all, or there used to be. Snoring is most likely the audible expression of a universal link to spirituality. HolgerDan

A friend of mine works for the Highways Agency, which does an incredible (and invisible and unappreciated) job of looking after roadside habitats to try to maintain as much wildlife as possible. Until I met him, for example, I never knew that it looked after the big bat colony under the M5 between Bristol and Clevedon and it has very strict rules around heights of cutting back habitats to help roosting birds etc.

His finest hour was helping his eight-year-old daughter with her class assembly project on mice. The video of hibernating mice snoring themselves silly brought the house down. Jaws4PM

Snoring is caused by the unavoidable, age-related relaxing of the soft palate (assisted by fat accumulation, which further softens the tissue and muscle relaxant drugs like alcohol). Evolution ignores anything that happens after the much earlier progeny-bearing age, since by that point genes have already been selected and passed on. So you could just as well ask what possible survival benefit is there to arthritis, or losing our hearing?

In fact, most animals outside of human domestication probably just don’t live long enough to even reach an age where their body gets a chance to soften enough for snoring to start (or arthritis, deafness or any other signs of ageing) being picked off. by disease and ordinary, non-snore-assisted predation.

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Nor is their diet usually rich enough in calories to gain the aforementioned weight. Some do discover the joys of fermented fruit though, and also presumably related binge-drinking related snoring and – assuming they survive the night – hangovers. HaveYouFedTheFish

Evolution certainly can have effects on a species’ post-breeding individuals; hence the menopause in humans. Genes don’t simply exist in the context of one individual, a group shares largely the same genes, so things that can advantage the group – such as childcare-sharing older women no longer suffering the extreme risks of birth – can evolve. Imtryingdamnit

Nocturnal hunters tend to hunt by smell. snazpizaz2

Animals snore because unlike me they don’t use a CPAP. Barbara Matthias Allard

This is a better question than usual because nobody seems to have much of an idea why. A lot of people have probably Googled it but still haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer. sanguaro

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