Surviving the Antarctic winter-life stage cold tolerance and ice entrapment survival in the invasive chironomid midge Eretmoptera murphyi.
An insect's ability to tolerate winter conditions is a critical determinant of its success. This is true for both native and invasive species, and especially so in harsh polar environments. The midge Eretmoptera murphyi (Diptera, Chironomidae) is invasive to maritime Antarctic Signy Island, and the ability of fourth instar larvae to tolerate freezing is hypothesized to allow the species to extend its range further south. However, no detailed assessment of stress tolerance in any other life stage has yet been conducted. Here, we report that, although larvae, pupae and adults all have supercooling points (SCPs) of around -5 °C, only the larvae are freeze-tolerant, and that cold-hardiness increases with larval maturity. Eggs are freeze-avoiding and have an SCP of around -17 °C. At -3.34 °C, the CTmin activity thresholds of adults are close to their SCP of -5 °C, and they are likely chill-susceptible. Larvae could not withstand the anoxic conditions of ice entrapment or submergence in water beyond 28 d. The data obtained here indicate that the cold-tolerance characteristics of this invasive midge would permit it to colonize areas further south, including much of the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.