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Physiology of cold tolerance in the bark beetle, Pityogenes chalcographus and its overwintering in spruce stands

Date: 3.8.2015 

The seasonal development of physiological features underlying gradual acquisition of relatively high cold tolerance in overwintering adults of the bark beetles, Pityogenes chalcographus was described. Prior to overwintering, the beetles accumulated carbohydrate reserves in the form of glycogen and trehalose. These reserves were partially converted to glycerol during peaking winter so that glycerol concentration reached 1.4 M in average, which corresponds to approximately one quarter of the beetle dry mass.

Whole body supercooling points decreased from -12.8 °C in average at the beginning of dormancy (August) to -26.3 °C in average during peaking winter (January). More than 75% of January-collected beetles survived at -5 °C for 30 days, at -15 °C for 60 days and more than 40% of them survived at -26 °C for 12 h. High resistance against inoculation of body fluids with external ice crystals, and low mortality, was observed when January-collected beetles were encased in an ice block for 14 days. Thus, the physiological limits of cold tolerance measured at individual level in laboratory were safely sufficient for survival of P. chalcographus at any conceivable cold spell that may occur in Central Europe.

In contrast, the field experiment showed that winter survival fluctuated between 23.8% and 69.2% at a population level depending on microclimatic conditions in different altitudes and overwintering locations (standing tree trunk or ground level). The meaning of laboratory-assessed physiological limits of cold tolerance for predictions of population winter survival in the field is discussed.

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We acknowledge the use of research infrastructure that has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 316304.





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