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Cold tolerance of New Zealand alpine insects

Journal of Insect Physiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2011.03.004
  • Moderate Freezing Tolerance
  • Hemideina Maori
  • Celatoblatta Quinquemaculata
  • Ice Nucleators
  • Cryoprotectant
  • Antifreeze Protein
  • Biology


Abstract New Zealand has extensive alpine and subalpine habitats where, together with some lowland sites, insects are exposed to subzero temperatures. Studies of cold tolerance in New Zealand insects have centred on an alpine weta ( Hemideina maori), which is the world's largest freezing tolerant insect, and an alpine cockroach ( Celatoblatta quinquemaculata). Both of these insects are moderately freezing tolerant and have ice nucleating agents in their haemolymph and guts. There is some evidence for the survival of intracellular ice formation in the isolated gut tissue of C. quinquemaculata. Trehalose is a suggested cryoprotectant in both H. maori and C. quinquemaculata whilst proline also provides this role in H. maori. Cells and tissues of both insects maintain viability and physiological function during freezing to moderately low temperatures but viability declines at lower temperatures, the most vulnerable tissue presumably setting the limit to the survival of the animal. Antifreeze proteins are found in the gut tissue of C. quinquemaculata and may protect this tissue when freezing occurs in the gut. Several other New Zealand insects are also moderately freezing tolerant and the apparent dominance of this cold tolerance strategy in the New Zealand fauna may reflect the relatively mild climate but unpredictable exposure to subzero temperatures that is typical of many Southern Hemisphere environments.

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