Cryoprotection in dampwood termites (Termopsidae, Isoptera)

Michael J. Lacey, Michael Lenz, Theodore A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


In contrast to the majority of the Order, the dampwood termites of the family Termopsidae found in colder regions can experience frost and snow, either in cool temperate areas at high latitudes (45 degrees), or alpine areas at high elevations (> 1000 m). This suggests that dampwood termites are adapted to cold climates. We investigated this hypothesis in two dampwood termites, Porotermes adamsoni Froggatt and Stolotermes victoriensis Hill. We measured nest temperatures and atmospheric temperatures of their alpine habitat during winter, and measured survival and recovery at subzero temperatures. We also determined the minimum temperature at which these species remain active and the LT50 values. We used a novel gas chromatographic strategy to examine eight metabolites from individuals of both species collected in winter and summer to identify possible cryoprotectants. Both A adamsoni and S. victoriensis had significantly higher levels of trehalose, a known cryoprotectant, in winter than in summer; in addition S. victoriensis also had higher levels of unsaturated fatty acid ligands in winter than in summer, consistent with patterns observed for cold adaptation in other organisms. These results are the first to reveal that dampwood termites are adapted to cold climates and use trehalose and unsaturated lipids as cryoprotectants. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

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