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J Exp Biol. 2010 Feb 1;213(3):502-9. doi: 10.1242/jeb.035758.

Deep supercooling, vitrification and limited survival to -100{degrees}C in the Alaskan beetle Cucujus clavipes puniceus (Coleoptera: Cucujidae) larvae.

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  • 1Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.


Larvae of the freeze-avoiding beetle Cucujus clavipes puniceus (Coleoptera: Cucujidae) in Alaska have mean supercooling points in winter of -35 to -42 degrees C, with the lowest supercooling point recorded for an individual of -58 degrees C. We previously noted that some larvae did not freeze when cooled to -80 degrees C, and we speculated that these larvae vitrified. Here we present evidence through differential scanning calorimetry that C. c. puniceus larvae transition into a glass-like state at temperatures<-58 degrees C and can avoid freezing to at least -150 degrees C. This novel finding adds vitrification to the list of insect overwintering strategies. While overwintering beneath the bark of fallen trees, C. c. puniceus larvae may experience low ambient temperatures of around -40 degrees C (and lower) when microhabitat is un-insulated because of low snow cover. Decreasing temperatures in winter are correlated with loss of body water from summer high levels near 2.0 to winter lows near 0.4 mg mg(-1) dry mass and concomitant increases in glycerol concentrations (4-6 mol l(-1)) and thermal hysteresis. Finally, we provide direct evidence that Cucujus from Wiseman, Alaska, survive temperatures to -100 degrees C.

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