Entomologist David Denlinger of Ohio State University presented research on the only permanent animal species in Antarctica, Belgica antarctica, at Utah State University on Wednesday as part of a two-part lecture.
“We have a lot to learn from this little guy,” said Denlinger, referring to the black Belgica larvae on the screen; almost as small as the grooves of the finger holding it.
For most of the year this larvae stays frozen, in a state called insect diapause — a type of insect hibernation. Once thawed, it enters adulthood, mates, lays eggs and dies within a week.
According to Denlinger, understanding how an organism can survive losing up to 70 percent of its internal moisture without dying is critical for the medical industry because of the insights it can offer in the moving, storing and preserving of human organs for transplant.
Denlinger noted that losing moisture is necessary because the sharp, microscopic ice crystals that form would rupture the insect’s cell walls, killing it.
“Denlinger came to the university with the unique ability to discuss all the native species of Antarctica,” said Samantha Willden, a graduate student at Utah State and the coordinator of the event. “These insects are highly specialized for some of the harshest of environments.”
The second lecture, “Insect diapause: shutting down for the winter,” took place Thursday at 4 p.m., at Widtsoe Hall on Utah State campus.
Brooke Bell, Kyle Downey, Diego Mendiola, Dylan Harlow, Bo Lamb and Lee Johnson contributed to this report.