Speaking of Antifreeze...

Icefish are not the only "cool" animal out there. It turns out there are actually quite a few species that are resistant to freezing. Here is a brief list of some of my favorites:

Snow Fleas:
Snow flea.jpg

These fleas produce a glycine-rich antifreeze protein which differs from other insects suggesting that this was an independent adaptation to freezing (Source: Graham LA, Davies PL. (2005) Glycine-rich antifreeze proteins from snow fleas. Science. 310:461). Scientists have created a synthetic version of this protein that you can read about here.

Wood Frogs:

wood frogs.jpg

Professor Ken Storey at Carleton University in Ottawa knows about freezing temperatures. To protect their limbs from drying out, wood frogs draw them closer to their body and tuck in their toes. Glucose is their chosen antifreeze, which they build up prior to freezing. Here is a pretty neat website where you can read more about these amazing frogs.

Photo Source: http://discovermagazine.com/2005/feb/biology-of-cryogenics

Painted Turtle Hatchlings:

Painted turtles are residents of freshwater North American coastal regions. The young hatch in the late summer and survive winter by hibernating inside their nest at a depth of ~10cm beneath ground while the adults spend the winter underwater. To read more about these cute turtles visit the Laboratory for Ecophysiological Cryobiology at Miami University.

These animals offer hope for better methods of preserving human organs for transplantation. Antifreeze proteins also provide hope for some people willing to spend the money on freezing their head or whole body shortly after death in the hopes of being awakened in a future capable of curing their illness and restoring life.

Honey Bees:
honey bees.jpg

Honey bees use a different strategy to survive cold, they huddle to produce heat. Temperatures in the cluster of bees can be as high as 34 degrees C even when the outside temperature is lowered to a brutally cold -80 degrees C, which I find to be pretty remarkable. (Source: Southwicka EE. Cooperative metabolism in honey bees: An alternative to antifreeze and hibernation. J of Thermal Biology. 12:155-158, 1987)


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Dr. Jon Costanzo, Senior Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Zoology at Miami University in Oxford, OH was invited to tell us about his amazing research on wood frogs; animals that can actually survive freezing! Here is his post: In a recent post, Dr. Dolittle commented on…
Dr. Clara do Amaral is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Dayton in Ohio where she studies freeze tolerance in frogs. She received a Research Recognition Award from the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society at the 2017 Experimental Biology…
I was recently sent this intriguing question from a reader: Dear Dr. Dolittle, I heard in my science class that because honeybees have such high blood sugar levels, they can survive freezing...is that true? To answer this question, I turned to expert Dr. John G. Duman from the Department of…
I have heard of some animals using sugars as antifreeze (check out the prior blog on wood frogs that freeze and survive!), but never lipids. Image from http://thebuggeek.com/tag/eurosta-solidaginis/ Researchers have discovered that larva of the Goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) shown…

Temperatures in the cluster of bees can be as high as 34 degrees C even when the outside temperature is lowered to a brutally cold -80 degrees C, which I find to be pretty remarkable.

Even more remarkably, Japanese honeybees (Apis cerana japonica) use their communal heat generation as a defensive weapon against the Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica), which is far too large and powerful (up to 4 cm in length) for the bees to overcome in any other way. But as soon as a hornet scout enters the beehive, it is surrounded by several hundred bees in a tight ball in which the temperature quickly rises to 47° Celsius, killing the hornet and nipping the hive invasion in the bud.

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 05 Apr 2011 #permalink