These sunny days aren’t fooling me. I know the day I return to campus after break, this campus will be buried in snow and ice. I never knew how much winter could suck until I moved to Wisconsin. It’s not just the temperatures, which I admit are brutal on my Californian sensibilities, but the way that winter screws with your mood and motivation… Ugh, that’s really the nail in the coffin of winter term.
Now let’s take a moment and appreciate heaters and sweaters and cocoa. Let’s appreciate that we’re humans and have warm blood and fat and hair to keep us warm in the coming months. Imagine being a tiny frog going through a Wisconsin winter. Amphibians have a hard time escaping the cold and some species go to extreme lengths to make it to spring.
Take, for example, the wood frog. Instead of trying to avoid the cold like us warm blooded ninnies, they embrace it. Wood frogs survive the winter by undergoing cryopreservation, or the freezing of biological constructs avoid damage by freezing. The wood frog can tolerate the freezing of its blood and other tissues, causing it to become a little frogsicle in the winter.
About 65% the water making up a wood frog’s body will freeze and the frog’s heartbeat and breathing will completely stop for days or sometimes weeks on end. This would kill most ordinary creatures, but the wood frog is no ordinary creature.
Wood frogs have a special something in their body called cryoprotectants. Cryoprotectants are solutes that lower the freezing temperature of an animal’s tissues. When an animal is put into extremely cold temperatures, blood vessels start to constrict, there is typically a lack of oxygen reaching cells and eventually those cells die. Cryoprotectants prevent this from happening. The wood frog is essentially loaded up with antifreeze that keeps the cells alive while the rest of its body shuts down for months at a time. Then, when they thaw out, they haven’t suffered any form of frostbite or other injury due to the cold weather.
While freezing solid and waiting out the winter sounds pretty spectacular, I feel like sweaters and cocoa are more up my alley. Or maybe I’d handle winter like a bear…Eat a bunch of food and sleep for months. I guess I’ll just have to explore my options when I get back from break.