What to Know
- Wood frogs, which are native to New York, adapted to the cold weather by freezing during the winter and thawing out in spring
- A natural syrupy antifreeze keeps their insides from freezing, even as they are frozen rock solid on the outside
- Researchers home to learn from the adaptation to extend the amount of time organs can last before transplants
Researchers are studying frogs native to New York that freeze solid during the winter months, only to thaw and return to life in the spring.
Native to the Finger Lakes region, wood frogs survive winter by producing a natural syrupy antifreeze that keeps their cells from icing over during the cold weather.
“It’s frozen on the outside of its body -- its skin, its blood. And then all the inner parts of its body are that syrupy consistency because of the high concentration of sugar,” said Laine Sempler, a curator at the Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum.
The adaptation allows the amphibious critters to survive being frozen solid for months on end. “You can pick up a frozen wood frog and it clinks,” Sempler said.
The frogs usually take cover in leaf litter, branches, or under logs before they freeze during the winter.
“They have no brain activity. Their heartbeat stops,” Sempler said.
Then, when temperatures begin to rise again in the spring, they thaw out and start searching for food and a mate.
“Within 20 minutes, they start getting a heartbeat. After they reach a certain temperature, then they start gulping air and their lungs start to work again,” Sempler said.
Researchers are trying to hone in on the adaptation for use in the medical field, specifically organ transplants. Since there’s a limited amount of time organs are viable before surgery, prolonging that time could save lives.