Biology Publications

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Summer 8-1-2014


Journal of thermal biology



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The acorn weevil, Curculio glandium, is a widespread predator of acorns in eastern North America that overwinters in the soil as a larva. It is possible that low temperatures limit its northern geographic range, so we determined the cold tolerance strategy, seasonal variation in cold tolerance, and explored the physiological plasticity of overwintering larvae. Weevil larvae were collected from acorns of red and bur oak from Pelee Island, southwestern Ontario in fall 2010 and 2011. C. glandium larvae are freeze avoidant and larvae collected from bur oak acorns had lower supercooling points (SCPs: -7.6±0.36°C, LT50: -7.2°C) than those collected from red oak acorns (SCPs: -6.1±0.40°C, LT50: -6.1°C). In the winter of 2010-2011, SCPs and water content decreased, however these changes did not occur in 2011-2012, when winter soil temperatures fluctuated greatly in the absence of the buffering effect of snow. To examine whether larvae utilize cryoprotective dehydration, larvae from red oak acorns were exposed to -5°C in the presence of ice for seven days. These conditions decreased the SCP without affecting water content, suggesting that SCP and water content are not directly coupled. Finally, long-term acclimation at 0°C for six weeks slightly increased cold tolerance but also did not affect water content. Thus, although larval diet affects cold tolerance, there is limited plasticity after other treatments. The soil temperatures we observed were not close to lethal limits, although we speculate that soil temperatures in northerly habitats, or in years of reduced snow cover, has the potential to cause mortality in the field.

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