(This blog first appeared in The Stiletto Gang Blog on November 1, 2022)
For my fifth Nikki Garcia mystery, Nikki’s brother, Andy, is introduced as a character. He’d been mentioned in a couple of earlier Nikki novels, but this is his debut as a living, breathing character. Andy is a sleep researcher, studying the deep-winter sleep of black bears, and torpor, shorter periods of hibernation, in squirrels and chipmunks. In other words, it’s a subplot on mammal hibernation.
In the novel, Andy hypothesizes that our ancient ancestors, being mammals like bears, slept through the winters to lower their metabolism and conserve energy. He figured that if he were a barefoot Neanderthal, he’d find a cozy cave to curl up in, maybe even next to a family of bears. After all, the Pleistocene era, or last ice age, ended 11,700 years ago. It lasted for 2.6 million ultra-frigid years.
If human ancestors, Andy theorizes, could awaken in springtime, they would find that ice on rivers and streams had melted for easy consumption, berries were available on bushes for families to feast on, and the weather was far more tolerable on their feet.
I felt like a scientist! I’d discovered a theory for Andy to work on. Up to that point, I had not researched hibernation in humans, current or ancient.
I did a bit of research and guess what? I’d reinvented the wheel. In fact, an article in New Scientist described researchers working on ways to place astronauts into hibernation while they are flying to Mars and beyond. Space travel would be so much cheaper and easier if energy, food, water, and boredom could be conserved through deep sleep for long-distance space travelers.
Scientists based their true-life studies of futuristic hibernation on findings in the bones of early humans in northern Spain that showed inconsistent bone growth throughout the year. The skeletons of bears show the same inconsistency due to their hibernation.
Now I must re-focus and re-write Andy’s work. He’s still going to be a sleep researcher because he’s motivated by his wife’s sleepwalking.
I’ve just started this new Nikki mystery and I’m already loving it. Also, it’s set in the mountains of northern New Mexico, where Andy finds lots of bears sleeping in caves.
Kathryn Lane writes mystery and suspense novels and draws deeply from her experiences growing up in a small town in Mexico as well as her work and travel in over ninety countries around the globe. Her award-winning Nikki Garcia Mystery Series features a strong female protagonist whose private investigative work often takes her to foreign countries.
Reinvent the Wheel - Pinterest
Sleeping Bear - Atapuerca article, La Vanguardia
Neanderthal - Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Creative Commons
European Space Agency astronaut sleeping in Bag - European Space Agency
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