Pre-adapted to the maritime Antarctic? – Rapid cold hardening of the midge, Eretmoptera murphyi

During the 1960s, the midge, Eretmoptera murphyi, was transferred from sub-Antarctic South Georgia (55oS 37oW) where it is endemic to a single location on maritime Antarctic Signy Island (60oS 45oW). Its distribution has since expanded considerably, suggesting that it is pre-adapted to the more severe conditions further south. To test one aspect of the level of its pre-adaptation, the rapid cold hardening (RCH) response in this species was investigated. When juvenile (L1–L2) and mature (L3–L4) larvae of E. murphyi were directly exposed to progressively lower temperatures for 8 h, they exhibited Discriminating Temperatures (DTemp, temperature at which there is 10–20% survival of exposed individuals) of −11.5 and −12.5 °C, respectively. The mean SCP was above −7.5 °C in both larval groups, confirming the finding of previous studies that this species is freeze-tolerant. Following gradual cooling (0.2 °C min−1), survival was significantly greater at the DTemp in both larval groups. The response was strong, lowering the lower lethal temperature (LLT) by up to 6.5 °C and maintaining survival above 80% for at least 22 h at the DTemp. RCH was also exhibited during the cooling phase of an ecologically relevant thermoperiodic cycle (+4 °C to −3 °C). Mechanistically, the response did not affect freezing, with no alteration in the supercooling point (SCP) found following gradual cooling, and was not induced while the organism was in a frozen state. These results are discussed in light of E. murphyi’s pre-adaptation to conditions on Signy Island and its potential to colonize regions further south in the maritime Antarctic.


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Authors: Everatt, M.J., Worland, M.R., Bale, J.S., Convey, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Convey, Hayward, S.A.L.

On this site: Roger Worland, Peter Convey
1 January, 2012
Journal of Insect Physiology / 58
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