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Body Size, but Not Cooling Rate, Affects Supercooling Points in the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta

Hahn, Daniel A., Martin, Adam R., Porter, Sanford D.
Environmental entomology 2008 v.37 no.5 pp. 1074
Solenopsis invicta, fire ants, cold tolerance, supercooling point, worker insects, body size, cold stress, temperature, thermoregulation, freezing, supercooling, correlation, adult insects, thermodynamics, allometry, overwintering, winter hardiness
The level of an animal's stress resistance is set by multiple intrinsic physiological and extrinsic environmental parameters. Body size is a critical intrinsic parameter that affects numerous fitness-related organismal traits including fecundity, survival, mating success, and stress resistance. The rate of cooling is a critical extrinsic environmental factor that can affect thermal stress resistance. Workers of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), display considerable variation in adult body size. Therefore, developing ecologically realistic models of thermotolerance in this species requires a consideration of body size. We tested the hypothesis that body size and cooling rate would interact to set the supercooling point in fire ant workers by exposing workers of a range of body sizes to three different cooling regimens: a very fast ramp of -10°C/min, an intermediate ramp of -1°C/min, and an ecologically relevant slow ramp of -0.1°C/min. Specifically, we asked whether large workers were more susceptible to differences in cooling rate than smaller workers. We found that body size had a considerable effect on supercooling point with the largest workers freezing at a temperature approximately 3°C higher than the smallest workers. Cooling rate had a very small effect on supercooling point, and there was no interaction between the two factors. Therefore, the allometry of supercooling points across the range of worker body sizes does not change with cooling rate.