Ecophysiological strategies of Antarctic intertidal invertebrates faced with freezing stress
Recent studies have revealed a previously unanticipated level of biodiversity present in the Antarctic littoral. Here, we report research on the ecophysiological strategies adopted by intertidal species that permit them to survive in this environment, presenting cold-tolerance data for the widest range of invertebrates published to date from the Antarctic intertidal zone. We found significant differences in levels of cold tolerance between species within this zone. However, and contrary to expectations, intraspecific comparisons of subtidal and intertidal groups of eight species found significant differences between groups in only three species. One species, the nemertean Antarctonemertes validum, showed evidence of the presence of antifreeze proteins (thermal hysteresis proteins), with 1.4°C of thermal hysteresis measured in its haemolymph. We found a strong inverse relationship across species between mass and supercooling point, and fitted a power law model to describe the data. The scaling exponent (0.3) in this model suggests a relationship between an animal’s supercooling point and its linear dimensions.