Cold tolerance of the springtail Gomphiocephalus hodgsoni Carpenter (Collembola: Hypogastruridae) was studied at Cape Bird, Ross Island, Antarctica (77°13′S, 166°26′E). Microclimate temperatures indicate a highly seasonal thermal environment, with winter minima <–39°C. Snow cover significantly buffers both minimum temperatures and cooling rates. Gomphiocephalus hodgsoni survives low temperatures by avoiding freezing. Mean low group supercooling points (SCPs) ranged from –35.4°C in October to –28.3°C in January. The lowest SCP measured was –38.0°C. The high SCP group was very small, making up only 18% of the population in January. In October, G. hodgsoni had a very high glycerol content (>80 μg mg−1 dry weight), although this declined rapidly to low levels (c. 7–10 μg mg−1 dry weight) in January. Quantities of glucose and trehalose were low during October, but steadily increased throughout the summer. Haemolymph osmolality was exceptionally high (up to 1755 mOsm kg−1) at the end of November, but this rapidly declined to c. 500 mOsm kg−1 by late December. The presence of thermal hystersis proteins was indicated by both osmometry on haemolymph samples and recrystallization inhibition studies of springtail homogenates. There was a strong relationship between glycerol content and SCP, but the relationship between haemolymph osmolality, SCP and carbohydrates is uncertain.
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