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Still Waters

How Antarctica’s only native insect survives

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Still Waters

As Antarctica’s largest native land animal, the Antarctic midge—a flightless insect measuring less than one centimeter long—spends around nine months of the year frozen solid. But Belgica antarctica’s impressive abilities don’t end there: Devi Lockwood of the New York Times reports that midge larvae can also survive temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius, the loss of up to 70 percent of their bodily fluids and as long as a month without oxygen.

A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggests the invertebrate species owes its resilience to a combination of rapid cold hardening (a physiological process that enables animals to endure in freezing environments) and slightly warmer temperatures in its underground habitat. The research is still in early stages, but as Lockwood points out, a better understanding of midges’ survival in extreme conditions could eventually lead to innovations centered on human health.


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