Postfreeze reduction of locomotor endurance in the freeze-tolerant wood frog, Rana sylvatica.
Irwin, Jason T.
Costanzo, Jon P.
Lee, Richard E.
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Considerable study has focused on the physiological adaptations for freeze tolerance in the wood frog, Rana sylvatica, a northern species that overwinters within the frost zone, but little attention has been paid to the associated costs to organismal performance. Here we report that freezing causes transient impairment of locomotor endurance and adverse changes in exercise physiology that persist for at least 96 h. Wood frogs frozen at −2°C for 36 h exhibited normal behaviors and hydro‐osmotic status and near‐normal metabolite (glycogen, glucose, and lactate) levels within 24 h after thawing began. However, when exercised to exhaustion on a treadmill, these frogs showed a 40% reduction in endurance as compared to sham‐treated (unfrozen) controls, a reduction that persisted for at least 96 h. Previously frozen frogs exhibited higher rates of lactate accumulation during exercise than controls, suggesting that prior freezing forces greater reliance on the glycolytic pathways of energy production to support exercise. Given that this species breeds in late winter, when subzero temperatures are common, freezing may result in reduced fitness by hampering their ability to reach the pond, avoid predators, and successfully obtain mates.