Arctic insects and spiders can survive colder temperatures than thought
Arctic bugs can survive in frozen ground as cold as -27°C, scientists have revealed.
It is the first time higher-order invertebrates such as spiders, flies and beetles have been found coping in direct exposure to such cold temperatures. Previous lows were between just -5°C and a little below -10°C.
The research, published in the Journal of Thermal Biology, suggests they may be more resilient to climate change than first feared.
Throughout winter, snow cover acts like a thick blanket over polar ground, insulating the soil below from the extremes of the atmosphere above.
But over the coming decades, climate change is expected to trigger a major reorganisation of snowfall across the polar regions. This has led to concerns that key invertebrates, essential to Arctic ecology, could be exposed to temperatures beyond their survival capabilities.
'There has been this prevailing view, almost a dogma, that invertebrates survive winter better under snow cover,' says Professor Pete Convey, of NERC's British Antarctic Survey, who led the research. 'But this has never really been put to the test in real-world conditions.'
Beetle in snow image via Shutterstock.
Read more at Planet Earth online.