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Cryo Letters. 2002 Jul-Aug;23(4):217-28.

Survival at low temperatures in insects: what is the ecological significance of the supercooling point?

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Station biologique de Paimpont, UMR 6553 CNRS, Université de Rennes-I, 35380 Paimpont, France.


Many freezing-intolerant insects may die during long or even brief exposures to temperatures above their supercooling point (SCP). Consequently, the real ecological value of the SCP remains ambiguous, particularly for tropical species that never experienced cold exposures. The bimodal distribution of SCP is discussed in the light of sexual dimorphism. The importance of sex in insect cold hardiness has been regularly neglected and although we admit that in some species sex may be uneasy to determine, it should be taken into account in further studies. We suggest that supercooling ability may be, at least partially, a result of adaptations to other functions unrelated to cold, including the desiccation resistance. The potential causes of insect death at low temperatures during survival experiments have also been examined. Prolonged exposures at lethal low temperatures can produce deleterious effects (including death) even if the insect does not freeze; during long-term exposure to low temperatures the organisms may finally die from the exhaustion of energy reserves.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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