It is no secret that the warm weather is dying down and we are not far away from November and December snow, sleeting rain, and ice. So when it is cold outside, we as humans, have the luxury of putting on coats, jackets, mittens and snow boots, but what do animals do when it gets extremely cold? Do they hibernate? Freeze solid? Or stay active all winter long? Let’s take a look at some Nebraska animals and what they have to do to survive the cold.
Cope’s Gray Treefrog- This is Nebraska’s smallest amphibian, but has one of the coolest adaptations to survive the winter. Around late October this frog will start scoping out spots to freeze for the winter. Yep! That’s right they actually will freeze solid for the winter. They like to find a spot that is safe from predators like underneath the bark on a tree. Here they will slow their body down and eventually freeze just like an ice cube. During this time they are still alive, but merely frozen. When the weather warms they will slowly defrost out and come back to life as if nothing ever happened. Studies have found they can freeze them solid for 3 years in ice cube trays and frost them out and they will still be alive afterwards.
Painted Turtles- Painted Turtles are one of the most common turtles found in Nebraska, but again, they have an amazing way of surviving the winter. They will hibernate in shallow nests during the winter but ice can still form on their bodies, and inside their body cavity. Eventually their blood flow, heartbeat, and breathing will eventually stop all together. Ice crystals can even form inside their cells. To prevent damage from occurring they have a type of chemical called Cryoprotectants. Cryoprotectants protect the cells from damage and prevent the water inside the cells from freezing, much like the antifreeze in your car’s radiator. When the weather warms they will thaw out and fully recover.