Nature magazine 03Dec2009 page 546 had a brief article about a non-freezing beetle. This beetle can survive temperatures as low as – 60°C. Most creatures including humans tissues explode when their temperatures go below 0°C as the water inside the cells expands when it converts into ice. (This article was a report on Pro, Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 20210-20215 (2009)). Previous animal based antifreeze compounds have all been proteins but this Upis ceramboides is using something else.
These antifreeze compounds may become important for The EarthArk Project because many living seeds cannot be frozen and remain viable. This inability to endure freezing is true of tropical seeds which never encounter freezing weather although high latitude seeds which have routinely encountered freezing have evolved mechanisms for coping and can be sent directly to the EarthArks. The temperate ones are intermediate. The EarthArk Project places materials into soil covered storage containers at altitudes of 3500 meters or more in the mountains of Antarctica where the subsurface temperature a few meters down never varies from about -45°C. The area near Mt. Vinson Massif ( at -78.5 -85.6 ) at 3800 meters altitude should be one of the most consistently cold locations on Earth. In those cold storage conditions the seeds should remain fertile indefinitely, that is in excess of a few thousand years. At the moment there is no way of knowing how biological antifreeze will function in these other species.
If the antifreeze could be introduced into the freeze sensitive creatures, plants and seeds, perhaps while still living, it might be more likely to recover them thousands of years in the future and then be able to reintroduce them into appropriate environments. Many species are being lost at present and this would be a way to recover them later when the Earth is restabilized. Great efforts are being made at present by various ecological organizations to save these species but these efforts probably cannot be maintained during times of great wars when every nation will expend their uttermost energy just to survive. And during a truly devastating Doomsday type of all out thermonuclear war a great many species will be lost forever.
The EarthArk Project will have some strange answers to as yet to be asked questions.