Freeze avoidance in a mammal: body temperatures below 0 degree C in an Arctic hibernator

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Science  30 Jun 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4912, pp. 1593-1595
DOI: 10.1126/science.2740905


Hibernating arctic ground squirrels, Spermophilus parryii, were able to adopt and spontaneously arouse from core body temperatures as low as -2.9 degrees C without freezing. Abdominal body temperatures of ground squirrels hibernating in outdoor burrows were recorded with temperature-sensitive radiotransmitter implants. Body temperatures and soil temperatures at hibernaculum depth reached average minima during February of -1.9 degrees and -6 degrees C, respectively. Laboratory-housed ground squirrels hibernating in ambient temperatures of -4.3 degrees C maintained above 0 degree C thoracic temperatures but decreased colonic temperatures to as low as -1.3 degrees C. Plasma sampled from animals with below 0 degree C body temperatures had normal solute concentrations and showed no evidence of containing antifreeze molecules.

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