How wood frogs survive extreme temperatures

Freezing and thawing might not be good for the average steak, but it seems to help wood frogs each fall as they prepare to survive Alaska’s winter cold.

“Alaska wood frogs spend more time freezing and thawing outside than a steak does in your freezer and the frog comes back to life in the spring in better shape than the steak,” said Don Larson, University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student and lead author on a recent paper demonstrating that freeze tolerance in Alaska wood frogs is more extreme than previously thought.

Although wood frogs are well-studied freeze-tolerant amphibians, Larson’s research is believed to be the first to examine the frogs under natural conditions.

In subarctic Interior Alaska, wood frogs overwinter in the ground covered by duff and leaf litter, creating a hibernacula, where temperatures can remain below freezing for more than six months with minimum temperatures of minus four (minus 20 Celsius).

Tracking wood frogs to their natural hibernacula, and using a fenced hibernacula in the Biological Reserve north of the UAF campus, Larson and co-author Brian Barnes, director of the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology and an expert in cold-climate physiology, wanted to know how cold and how long Alaska’s wood frogs could survive in their natural habitat.

Provided by the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Runtime: 4:17

Get Science360's video of the day in your mailbox each weekday.

Sign up now!
» More videos about Life Sciences