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The springtail Megaphorura arctica survives extremely high osmolality of body fluids during drought

New publication by Martin Holmstrup


The springtail Megaphorura arctica Tullberg 1876 is widespread in the arctic and subarctic regions where it can be abundant along beaches. This species survives winters using cryoprotective dehydration as a cold tolerance strategy during which it becomes drastically dehydrated. Several studies have investigated the physiological responses associated with water loss of M. arctica under exposure to freezing temperatures, but little is known of the dynamics of body water and hemolymph osmolality when subjected to gradually increasing drought stress at temperatures above the freezing point. Therefore, an experiment was conducted in which M. arctica was subjected to relative humidities (RH) decreasing from fully saturated conditions to ca. 89%RH over a period of 30 days. During the experiment water content of springtails decreased from about 3 to ca. 0.5 mg mg−1 dry weight. Alongside with water loss, trehalose concentrations increased from nearly nothing to 0.12 mg mg−1 dry weight, which contributed to an increase in hemolymph osmolality from ca. 250 mOsm to at least 7 Osm. All springtails survived water loss down to 0.7 mg mg−1 dry weight and hemolymph osmolality of ca. 4 Osm, and about 60% of the springtails survived with only 0.5 mg water mg−1 dry weight and osmolality of ca. 7 Osm. At this level of dehydration, Differential Scanning Calorimetry analysis showed that most, but not all, osmotically active water was lost. It is discussed that the extensive dehydration must be associated with high concentrations of salts potentially causing denaturation and precipitation of cellular proteins. M. arctica is remarkably tolerant of dehydration, but because it does not endure loss of the osmotically inactive water it cannot be categorized as a truly anhydrobiotic species.  

 Holmstrup, M. J Comp Physiol B (2018) 188: 939. doi.org/10.1007/s00360-018-1180-3