Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 160, Issue 2, pp 137–143 | Cite as

Supercooling and freeze-tolerance in the European wall lizard, Podarcis muralis, with a revisional history of the discovery of freeze-tolerance in vertebrates

  • Dennis L. Claussen
  • Mikal D. Townsley
  • Richard G. Bausch


Wall lizards were collected in the fall of 1988 from a population introduced in 1951 into Cincinnati, OH. They were acclimated to 5 °C for several weeks prior to testing at sub-zero temperatures. Eleven super-cooled lizards were removed from the cooling chamber prior to crystallization after between 15 min and 26 h at body temperatures ranging from -2.2 to -5.9 °C. With the exception of one individual supercooled to-5.0 °C, all lizards recovered fully. The crystallization temperatures of 15 lizards which froze ranged from -0.6 to -6.4 °C. Frozen lizards were stiff with a distinct blue color, which faded upon thawing at 3 °C. The ice contents of frozen lizards were determined calorimetrically and/or estimated from a theoretical model, the two methods being generally in close agreement. Remarkably, five individuals recovered fully from exposures as long as 2 h and with as much as 28% of their body water frozen. Although these animals are not as tolerant as certain other vertebrates they are clearly able to withstand freezing under some circumstances. Failure to survive freezing was attributed either to excessive ice accumulation during a prolonged freeze or to excessive supercooling prior to freezing, which induced a large initial surge of ice formation upon crystallization. Our results accord with those of Weigmann (1929). We accordingly recognize him as the first to demonstrate freeze-tolerance in vertebrates, and we further recognize P. muralis as the first vertebrate known to survive freezing.

Key words

Freeze-tolerance Supercooling Lizards Podarcis muralis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis L. Claussen
    • 1
  • Mikal D. Townsley
    • 1
  • Richard G. Bausch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA

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