Low temperature thresholds: Are chill coma and CT(min) synonymous?

SP Hazell, Jeffrey Bale

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78 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of sub-lethal low temperatures on insect physiology and behaviour are important determinants of insect activity including foraging, mating, and predation avoidance. A substantial body of research seeks to relate the temperatures at which these activities are compromised to both, climatic conditions at species range limits and underlying physiological processes. The interpretation of this research is complicated by confusion in the names and definition of the responses measured and their associated temperature thresholds. The development of the nomenclature and explanations of the underlying physiological causes are reviewed in order to elucidate the correct sequence of responses/thresholds and associated terminologies. The results of this analysis indicate that: (1) chill coma is a clearly defined, reversible physiological state characterised by the absence of electrophysiological activity. (2) The onset of chill coma begins when low temperatures begin to impair insect behaviour and physiology, and is punctuated by a series of behavioural and/or physiological thresholds or responses. These include the temperatures at which (i) spontaneous movements cease, (ii) coordination is lost to the degree that locomotion becomes impossible, and (iii) chill coma is entered. (3) Confusion has arisen because (a) the term 'onset of chill coma' has been used to describe all three of these responses/thresholds and (b) the term CT(min) has entered the insect literature from the vertebrate literature. These issues are discussed and a potential solution is proposed to provide clarity and consistency in the future literature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2011


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