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Am J Physiol. 1993 Oct;265(4 Pt 2):R721-5.

Physiological responses of freeze-tolerant and -intolerant frogs: clues to evolution of anuran freeze tolerance.

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Department of Zoology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056.


Freeze tolerance in the wood frog, Rana sylvatica, is promoted by multiple, integrated physiological responses to ice forming within body tissues. By analyzing the freezing responses of the sympatric, but freeze intolerant, leopard frog (R. pipiens), we sought clues to the evolution of anuran freeze tolerance. Physiological responses critical to R. sylvatica's freeze tolerance, such as the synthesis and distribution of the cryoprotectant glucose, protective dehydration of organs, and deferred cardiac failure, were present, but comparatively less pronounced, in R. pipiens. Both species were innately tolerant of hyperglycemia. Glucose supplements did not enhance the freezing viability of R. pipiens, although in vitro tests of cryoprotectant efficacy revealed that glucose and glycerol provided comparable protection to erythrocytes of both species. We conclude that the evolution of freeze tolerance in R. sylvatica is not only promoted by its desiccation tolerance and the fortuitous biophysical consequences of freezing (e.g., exothermic induction of cardioacceleration and moderation of cooling rate) but also involves a progressive enhancement of fundamental physiological stress responses.

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