The Remarkable Freezing Salamander
Found mainly in the Arctic Circle, Russia and Northeast Asia, the Siberian Salamander (Salamandrella keyserlingii) is a unique creature that can survive long periods of time frozen. The adult salamander is able to adapt to temperatures as low as –45 degrees Celsius by replacing the water in its blood and cells with ‘antifreeze’ chemicals, thereby protecting its tissues from damage. Other animals are known to use glucose or glycerol for protection in a similar fashion, but the exact mechanism the Siberian salamandar uses to produce its chemicals is so far unknown—but it’s highly effective. They can survive frozen for years, metres under the permafrost, and then they just casually thaw out and walk off again. Local legends claim that salamanders have revived after being frozen alongside mammoths of the Pleistocene age, but although they’ve been found 4–14 m deep in ice, it’s more likely that they just fell down cracks in more recent years. If we could discover how these creatures manage to produce antifreeze chemicals, the process could have useful applications in food storage, medical supplies, and protection of people who live or explore in the snow.
(Image Credit: 1, 2)