Insects and low temperatures: from molecular biology to distributions and abundance

Jeffrey Bale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

325 Citations (Scopus)


Insects are the most diverse fauna on earth, with different species occupying a range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats from the tropics to the poles. Species inhabiting extreme low-temperature environments must either tolerate or avoid freezing to survive. While much is now known about the synthesis, biochemistry and function of the main groups of cryoprotectants involved in the seasonal processes of acclimatization and winter cold hardiness (ice-nucleating agents, polyols and antifreeze proteins), studies on the structural biology of these compounds have been more limited. The recent discovery of rapid cold-hardening, ice-interface desiccation and the daily resetting of critical thermal thresholds affecting mortality and mobility have emphasized the role of temperature as the most important abiotic factor, acting through physiological processes to determine ecological outcomes. These relationships are seen in key areas such as species responses to climate warming, forecasting systems for pest outbreaks and the establishment potential of alien species in new environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-862
Number of pages14
JournalRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1423
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2002


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