Insects in the some of the world’s coldest places produce natural anti-freeze that enables them to survive sub-freezing temperatures for months on end according to research represented at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Glasgow.
Onychiurus arcticus, an insect from the Arctic, “uses protective dehydration to survive harsh Arctic winters,” explains a news release from the Society for Experimental Biology. “This means that water is lost from the body across a diffusion gradient between the animals’ super-cooled body fluids and ice in the surroundings.”
Upper panel shows Onychiurus arcticus. The effect of protective dehydration is shown in the lower panel.
“During this process the body loses all its water and you end up with a normal looking head, and a body which looks like a crumpled up crisp packet when it is fully dehydrated. But add a drop of water and it all goes back to normal!” Dr Melody Clark, from the British Antarctic Survey.
Another species in the Antarctic uses a different mechanism to survive icy conditions. Cryptopygus antarcticus produces anti-freeze compounds which enable them to withstand temperatures as low as minus 30 C without their bodies freezing.
Scientists plan to study the creatures further. Their anti-freezing properties could have commercial applications.