JUN 30, 2022 12:00 PM PDT

Climate Change Could Drive Antarctica's Only Insect To Extinction

WRITTEN BY: Hannah Daniel

Rising temperatures in Antarctica could endanger the only insect native to the frozen continent.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky, led by insect psychologist Nicholas Teets studied the Antarctic midge (Belgica Antarctica) in a simulated environment in the lab to determine the effect of warmer winters on the insect’s survival. They published their paper in Functional Ecology earlier this month.

The Antarctic midge is the continent’s only insect. Unlike other midges, these are flightless and live in the dirt on the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands. It is well adapted to survive the harsh Antarctic winters, but warmer climates might threaten their existence.

The researchers simulated three different types of winters: a warm winter (-1 °C), normal winter (-3 °C), and a cold winter (-5 °C), all of which have been recorded in the midges’ habitats. The midges were placed in one of three typical environments, decaying organic matter, living moss, or Prasiola crispa algae, and then were observed for six months.

Antarctic midges have a two-year lifespan, spent mainly as larvae. In the winter, they protect themselves by losing up to 70% of their body fluids to protect themselves from freezing for the six months of the year. During those months, they are in a type of hibernation.

Once the six months were over, the researchers recorded the midges’ survival, physical activity, tissue damage, energy storage level, and molecular stress response. They found that midges' survival, energy stores, and activity were lower after the warm winter than in the cooler ones.

While tissue and protein damage were the same across all environments and temperatures, researchers observed that a 2 °C increase significantly reduces the amount of energy stored by the insect. This has severe implications for the development and population of midges because they come out of winter and rely on their energy reserves during the mating season. Without enough energy, the widespread reproduction of midges could suffer.

With the rate of climate change, scientists expect to see warmer temperatures in the future, which could be detrimental to the species. However, it’s also possible that the expected shorter winters could also lead to longer summers, allowing the midges to start feeding and storing energy earlier.

Researchers say that the next steps will include field research, but Antarctica’s frozen ground will make it tricky.

Sources: Functional Ecology, Science News, Journal of Experimental Biology

 

About the Author
BS Biology
Hannah Daniel (she/they) is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an additional minor in Creative Writing. Currently, she works as a reporter for Informa Intelligence's Health, Beauty, and Wellness publication, a business newsletter detailing the latest innovations and regulations in the OTC drug and supplement worlds.
You May Also Like
AUG 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Dense, Turbulent Environments Form Multiple Star Systems
AUG 06, 2022
Dense, Turbulent Environments Form Multiple Star Systems
Stars are born in “stellar nurseries,” otherwise known as molecular clouds. Much research has been done to u ...
AUG 11, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Simulating Accurate Daylight with LEDs
AUG 11, 2022
Simulating Accurate Daylight with LEDs
Forget sun lamps— quantum-dot LEDs are the future of artificial daylight. Research from the University of Cambridg ...
AUG 15, 2022
Plants & Animals
Big Brown Bats Live Longer Due to Hibernation
AUG 15, 2022
Big Brown Bats Live Longer Due to Hibernation
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences discusses hibernation as the sec ...
AUG 20, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA and ESA are Working Together to Bring Samples of Mars Back to Earth
AUG 20, 2022
NASA and ESA are Working Together to Bring Samples of Mars Back to Earth
The Mars Sample Return Campaign has been ongoing since the Perseverance rover landed at Jezero Crater on February 18, 20 ...
AUG 30, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
This Day in Science History 8/30/1871: Birth of Ernest Rutherford Who Laid the Groundwork for Nuclear Physics
AUG 30, 2022
This Day in Science History 8/30/1871: Birth of Ernest Rutherford Who Laid the Groundwork for Nuclear Physics
On August 30, 1871, Ernest Rutherford, who would later establish the groundwork for nuclear physics and be knighted as S ...
SEP 25, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Rooftop Solar Cells Can Save a Ton of Water
SEP 25, 2022
Rooftop Solar Cells Can Save a Ton of Water
In submitted study in Science of The Total Environment, two researchers from Duke University estimate the average amount ...
Loading Comments...