Scientists from the University of Western Ontario used the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory to study why some insects survive being frozen while others do not. The researchers used the massive X-ray machine to specifically learn why Drosophila melanogaster dies when frozen while its close relatives do not.
An assistant professor in Western’s Department of Biology, Sinclair explains that the physical processes of ice formation seem to be consistent among species that do and don’t survive freezing. However, it seems that the insects that survive freezing have some control over the process of ice formation. They freeze at consistently higher temperatures than those that don’t.
Sinclair says this implies that the main adaptations required to survive freezing are at the cellular or biochemical level, rather than because of fundamental structural differences.
“We’re comparing Chymomyza amoena, an insect native to Ontario that survives freezing, with Drosophila melanogaster, because they’re very close relatives,” says Sinclair. “The idea is to find the magic bullet which allows some bugs to survive freezing and some don’t. That’s the goal here.”
Abstract in PLoS ONE: Synchrotron X-Ray Visualisation of Ice Formation in Insects during Lethal and Non-Lethal Freezing
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