Tolerance to Cold and Freezing Temperatures
In the earlier section you have been studying about tolerance of animals to high temperature. Now in this subsection we will study about tolerance to cold and freezing temperatures. The effects of low temperature are equally perplexing as those of high temperature. Some organisms can tolerate extensive freezing but most animals cannot. Animals that live in '4 temperature and cold regions are often exposed to long periods of winter temperatures that are far below the freezing point of water. Survival of ectothermic animals at such subzero temperature depends upon the physiological and biochemical characteristics that can be described as cold hardiness. An animal can develop cold hardiness either by developing capacity for freeze tolerance or by avoiding ice formation even if exposed to temperatures as low as -40°C to -50°C. The latter are regarded as freeze intolerant.
The intertidal marine invertebrates of colder zones are freeze tolerant in the sense that they survive extensive ice formation within their bodies. Many other animals also survive in spite of extensive ice formation. For example, midge Chironomous larva from Alaska can be frozen and thawed repeatedly without injury. Several species of insects are known to contain high concentration of glycerol in their body fluids. It is well-known that glycerol protects red blood cells and mammalian spermatozoa from injury caused by freezing. Therefore, glycerol is widely used for this purpose and samples of human or bull sperm can be kept frozen and viable for several years using glycerol. Without such treatment, freezing is Iethal, to sperms. Only a few vertebrates tolerate extensive ice formation. Birds and mammals however, are not known to tolerate freezing.