The Frogcicle

“20110410123904029 Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) – Bald Mountain RA, Oakland Co, MI” Pverdonk  CC BY-NC 2.0

 
Winter is arguably the season with the harshest weathers. It’s the origin of snow blizzards and powerful winds. In such a cold time of the year, people can easily stay home and sit in front of a well-lit fireplace with a warm cup of hot chocolate and maybe two or three marshmallows. Personally, I enjoy spending time outdoors when the snow has yet to melt. As much as I love the snow, there’s a certain limit to how much I can enjoy it because of the low temperatures. A fireplace and hot chocolate are necessities for me to finish my snow day. On the other hand, animals seem to make it through the entire season without the same fireplace or cup of hot chocolate. How? A species of wood frogs in particular have a rather astounding way to do it. They become “frogcicles”.

What is a “Frogcicle”?

By “frogcicles”, I mean frozen frogs. Certain species of wood frog freeze themselves during the winter and thaw themselves when spring arrives. Being in such a state actually happens to be a way to survive the cold, as ironic as it sounds. If I was to freeze myself in the winter, I definitely would not survive nor be able to thaw myself in spring. So, what’s the science behind frozen frogs?

The Science Behind “Frogcicles”

Like every change in state, there is a necessary process of steps for these frogs to become “frogcicles”. Foremost, within the first few minutes a frog’s skin begins to freeze, the liver starts the conversion of glucose from sugars that are stored as glycogen. These sugars play a pivotal role in preventing complete dehydration within the cells. As a result, the heart pumps it thoroughly throughout the body, without the exclusion of even a single organ. This happens after the glucose is released out of the liver and in to the frog’s bloodstream. However, not even a frog’s heart, can avoid the cold and eventually stops. With the rest of its organs, it freezes. The frog no longer breathes, and all organs will seem to stop in time. It may seem like the frog is dead but it’s not, as interesting as it sounds. Another essential step in this process involves urine. These frogs produce an excessive amount of urine which the frog reserves in it’s blood. The urine with the sugars create the perfect combination to prevent complete freezing within the frog’s cells. Additionally, it prevents the exterior ice from drawing all the water out of the frog. Urine may actually have more use than one would think for these particular species of frogs. Many other aspects have yet to be studied in this breathtaking process, which I am much excited for. Though humans have yet to survive the winter in such a way, this could lead to new, possibly even revolutionary, ways in reserving organs for longer periods of time.

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