Alaskan Frog Survives Winter By Freezing Itself For Six Months
A researcher from the University of Alaska Fairbanks is conducting the first live field study of wood frogs - amphibians who can survive freezing temperatures until they thaw in spring - through suspended animation, writes Nature World News.
'Alaska wood frogs spend more time freezing and thawing outside than a steak does in your freezer, and the frog comes back to life in the spring in better shape than the steak,' Don Larson, the lead author of a recent paper detailing this freeze-tolerance, joked in a recent release.
Larson's research has revealed some interesting findings about the tiny amphibians.
In subarctic Interior Alaska, where temperatures can remain below freezing for more than six months, these frogs survive winter by freezing themselves.
Traditionally, cells die when frozen because ice formation pulls water out of the cells, desiccating them and causing them to die.
'Imagine what happens when you suck on a freeze pop,' Larson said in a statement. 'After you've sucked out all the sweet stuff, you're left with just ice.'
However, past studies of wood frogs has revealed that their cells are capable of holding a amount of glucose, which serves as an extra supply of 'sweet stuff,' - preventing the freeze pop effect.
Interestingly, Larson's field study revealed that wood frogs in the wild were surviving colder temperatures than thought by scientists.
Data showed an almost 10-fold increase in glucose capacity compared to lab samples, with a nearly 100 percent survival rate, writes Nature World News.
Larson theorizes that repeated flash freezing can help the frogs to build up a 'freezer-burn' like layer of additional protection around cells.
'In the field in early Autumn it's freezing during the night, thawing slightly during the day, and these repeated freezing episodes stimulate the frogs to release more and more glucose,' Larson said.
'It's not warm enough for long enough for the frog to reclaim much of that glucose and over time it accumulates giving the frog more protection against cell damage.'
According to Larson, understanding this feat may help humans one day preserve organs for extended periods of time, aiding transplant banks.
'If science can figure out how to freeze human organs without damage it would allow more time to reach people in need of organs.'
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.