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Insects' chill-coma recovery mechanisms revealed

Posted on Nov 29, 06:53PM | IANS

Researchers have identified the mechanisms by which insects can recover from a paralyzed state in extreme cold, called chill-coma, which may give a new insight into managing agriculture and biodiversity in a changing climate.

A research team, led by Western University doctoral student Heath MacMillan, studied the recovery from chill-coma in autumn field crickets and found it depends on fixing the water and salt imbalances that materialise when the insect is cold.

"This work is significant because it allows us to identify the mechanisms that drive insect movement at low temperatures," says Brent Sinclair, professor, Western University.

"This will lead to a better understanding of the biology of pest and beneficial insects during cold snaps at any time of year, and maybe help us to predict how different insects respond to changing conditions. This will also help us manage agriculture and biodiversity in a changing climate," Sinclair adds.

Many alpine spiders prey on insects that have inadvertently landed on snowfields and have gone into a chill-coma. Biologists use chill-coma recovery as a way to measure insect's cold tolerance.

Wildlife photographers often pose insects by cooling them down in a fridge, where they enter a paralyzed state called chill-coma. They appear dead, but are still very much alive, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Chill-coma was first noted more than a century ago, according to a Western statement.