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J Comp Physiol B. 2002 Jan;172(1):71-6.

Freezing survival, body ice content and blood composition of the freeze-tolerant European common lizard, Lacerta vivipara.

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Laboratoire d'Ecologie, Fonctionnent et Evolution des Systèmes Ecologiques, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


To investigate the freeze tolerance of the European common lizard, Lacerta vivipara, we froze 17 individuals to body temperatures as low as -4 degrees C under controlled laboratory conditions. The data show that this species tolerates the freezing of 50% of total body water and can survive freezing exposures of at least 24-h duration. Currently, this represents the best known development of freeze tolerance among squamate reptiles. Freezing stimulated a significant increase in blood glucose levels (16.15+/- 1.73 micromol x ml(-1) for controls versus 25.06 +/- 2.92 micromol x ml(-1) after thawing) but this increase had no significant effect on serum osmolality which was unchanged between control and freeze-exposed lizards (506.0 +/- 23.8 mosmol x l(-1) versus 501.0 +/- 25.3 mosmol x l(-1), respectively). Tests that assessed the possible presence of antifreeze proteins in lizard blood were negative. Recovery at 5 degrees C after freezing was assessed by measurements of the mean time for the return of breathing (5.9 +/- 0.5 h) and of the righting reflex (44.8 +/- 4.5 h). Because this species hibernates in wet substrates inoculative freezing may frequently occur in nature and the substantial freeze tolerance of this lizard should play a key role in its winter survival.

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