How Larvae Survive The Cold Could Lead To Better Winter Fuels

How Larvae Survive The Cold Could Lead To Better Winter Fuels

on May 16 | in Tek Talk | by | with No Comments

From Woodstock Sentinel Review

It’s a fly that scoffs at Canadian winters, sometimes surviving temperatures as low as –80 C.

It’s a power that’s long puzzled scientists, but now researchers at Western University think they’ve pulled back the curtain on the mystery.

Turns out the goldenrod gall fly tweaks the fat that stores energy in its fingernail-sized body, making it super-resistant to sub-zero cold.

Freezing temperatures are to most flies what a freezer is to a forgotten bottle of beer or pop. The cells of the fly freeze and burst.

But goldenrod gall flies, common across Canada and the United States, survive at –17C and a few make it as far as –80C.

Somehow, the flies alter normal fat molecules, ditching some short-term energy storage for a structure that holds up much better in the cold.

How they do it is the next focus of Brent Sinclair, senior author on a study led by led by former PhD candidate Katie Marshall and published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

If scientists replicate in the lab what one of these super flies do in nature, they may be able to create a biofuel that holds up to Canadian winters.

“(This) paves the way for researchers to develop new ways to turn regular fats into biofuels that work in Canada’s cold winters or chilly high altitudes,” Sinclair said Thursday.

The goldenrod gall fly gets its name from the way it lives. Females inject eggs in the stem of goldenrod plants, where larva saliva tricks the plant into growing a cocoon, called a gall, with material that can be eaten. Adults emerge each spring, living two weeks, long enough to mate.

The special fat they make is only found in trace amounts in the antlers of Japanese deer, the udders of domestic cows and a plant known as a burning bush.

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