How springtails survive Arctic cold

Arctic springtail, photo by Krister Hall

From the British Antarctic Survey:

21 Jul 2009

Arctic springtails (Megaphorura arctica) survive freezing temperatures by dehydrating themselves before the coldest weather sets in. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genomics have identified a suite of genes involved in controlling this extreme survival mechanism.

Melody Clark led a team of researchers from British Antarctic Survey and the University of Novi-Sad, Serbia, who studied the arthropods. She said,

“This is the first in-depth molecular study on the underlying cold survival mechanisms in this species. Such information is not only of interest to ecologists, but also to the medical field of cryobiology.”

Arctic springtails desiccate themselves in order to survive the worst of polar ice, snow and low temperatures, which can easily reach −14°C. They shrivel up into small husks until, when conditions become more favourable, they rehydrate themselves and re-emerge. This is the first study to identify the genetic basis for this physiological process.

By the way, on the BAS site, this item had as its title

Sleeping Beauty, how Antarctic animals survive the extremes

though it is about Arctic, not Antarctic, animals.

Rafting in the Antarctic springtail, Gomphiocephalus hodgsoni: here.

In the dark abyss of the world’s deepest known cave lurks a newly found species of primitive eyeless insect, one that researchers are calling the deepest land animal ever found. The creature, now known as Plutomurus ortobalaganensis, is one of four newly discovered species of wingless insects called springtails, which commonly live in total darkness in caves, where they feed on fungi and decomposing organic matter: here.

Apterygota, primitive insects: here.


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