Seasonal variation in the cold-hardiness of a free-living predatory antarctic nematode, Coomansus gerlachei (mononchidae)

Coomansus gerlachei shows a strong seasonal variation in its supercooling ability, with most individuals freezing between -5° and -7°C, in a discrete high group, or between -15° and -26°C in a more diffuse low group. Increased cold-hardiness in winter is achieved by a strategy of freeze avoidance with an increase in the proportion of the population showing extensive supercooling ability. Smaller life-stages also exhibit lower supercooling points. Ice-nucleation at high sub-zero temperatures increases the probability of surviving freezing, a capacity which is enhanced in larger life-stages; adults and J4 stage juveniles show 50% survival at a supercooling point of -8.65° C. Laboratory incubations of field-fresh worms suggest that recent feeding is responsible for the movement between low and high groups. The cold-hardiness data for C. gerlachei provide interesting comparisons to the available data for microarthropods and create a precedent for seasonal changes between strategies of freezing tolerance and freezing intolerance in a field invertebrate population.


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Authors: Pickup, Jonathan

1 February, 1990
Polar Biology / 10
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