Cool Trick

on Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We squirrels share the woods with many animals and some of them know some real neat party tricks. Remember David Blaine's Frozen in Time act where he encased himself between two blocks of ice with only a 2 inch gap between him and the ice. He stayed entombed in that icy prison for 61 hours and 40 minutes. At the end of the act, he had to be rushed to hospital.

Well, forget David Blaine and say hello to my friend the North American Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) or as we like to call him, "Lazarus". Lazarus' party trick is literally way cooler than David's act. Lazarus doesn't get entombed in blocks of ice, he becomes a block of ice.

Lazarus and his kin actually gets through the winters of Northern U.S.A. and Canada by freezing solid and then thawing out again in Spring. When he is frozen, more than 60% of his body water will have turned to ice and he will have no heart beat or any respiration. He may be considered clinically dead but give Lazarus some warmth and presto, he thaws from the inside out and starts living again. Back from the dead just like his namesake from the Bible.

Somehow, Lazarus is able to use glucose like an anti-freeze and protect his cells. Somehow the brain survives without oxygen using an anaerobic metabolic pathway. While science may at least understand a little bit about the process when Lazarus freezes, it remains baffled at how Lazarus revives. There is no known explanation for thawing from the inside out and science has yet to figure out how the heart restarts after months of being frozen.

The early European Explorers in Canada described this frog's amazing ability as early as the 1700's and today, Science and Medicine is very interested in Lazarus' natural ability because it may point the way for extending the lifespan of organs harvested for transplant operations and perhaps one day lead to the perfection of human cryogenics. I think with Climate Change occurring, it is also a neat trick to learn in case we face the onset of a new Ice Age.


Tai said...

The things nature can teach us if we just stop long enough to really LOOK.

Dr.John said...

Wow! What a frog.

On a limb with Claudia said...

That is so very very cool! Thanks for sharing this amazing creature with us!

How are you feeling? How is the back? Will you need surgery? (((hug))) hope you're OK!

Ruth W. said...

awesome....never new this.

and yes, how are you feeling?

MedStudentWife said...

I wonder if they suffer from a very bad case of "morning breath"...hmmm....

The kwel bit is that they thaw from the inside out.

Claire said...

We'll need to figure out cryogenics if we're going to fly off to a neighboring solar system to find another planet to f*** up.
Seriously though, I have read that frogs are disappearing from environments all over the planet, especially the mountainous regions.
Now that's a bummer.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Most of what we know in science and technology and medicine comes from the study of nature.

dr. john,
You have to be tough to live in Canada! ;)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

claudia and ruth,
I am much better. First week, I could only sleep sitting up cause it was too painful to lie down. Three days ago I managed to sleep lying down. The pain is mostly under control but I still cannot stand or sit in a soft chair too long.

Doctor is actually pleasantly surprised at my progress and is only concerned that it becomes a chronic situation and so I still need a week of physiotherapy and traction. Traction is only for 20 minutes at a time but I am sore for the next 6 hours. If all goes well, I should be back at work next week. Thankfully, he says that it does not appear that I need surgery unless the symptoms deteriorates.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Don't frogs have bad breath all the time? Comes from eating flies.

you are right about the disappearing amphibians. And as they disappear, much knowledge that could be useful to man disappears too.

the walking man said...

Well for a laid up squirrel, you are well enough to have added to a walking mans knowledge today. Thank You.



Josie said...

LGS, That is the most incredibly amazing thing I have ever seen. There was a little girl about 18 months old who literally froze to death one winter in Edmonton. She had been outside in the snow all night, and she was solid ice. But they managed to thaw her out and bring her back to life and she is perfectly normal. There is some strange thing at work there.

Interesting post!

jmb said...

The new Ice Age? I thought we had global warming coming up.
Hope you are doing better LGS.

tsduff said...

Now that is amazing - I watched the video and could hardly believe it was true! I don't understand how the frog could be completely frozen solid on the inside, and still spontaneously come back to working order. Thanks for this fun fact!

Sorry to hear about the traction hurting - but happy it is only 20 minutes at a time. Feel better soon!

geewits said...

That's one crazy frog!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Welcome. I try. Beats just lying on my back and snoring.

Amazing story! The small and young do seem to have a better chance of recovering from hypothermia.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

well climate change predicts overall global temperatures increasing but his could lead to large amounts of ice (in Greenland for example) melting and this cold water may shut down the ocean currents. The ocean currents in turn is what warms up North America and Europe so if they are shut down, it is predicted that the temperatures in these areas will drop substantially. See the exaggerated version in the movie, "Day after tomorrow".

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I am feeling a lot better. Thanks.

Wierd, huh?

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is flat out astounding. I love that kind of thing. My son watched the clip over my shoulder, too.

Gina said...

WOW...kiss a frozen toad and put him in your pocket, never ever let him go...

I don't know what that song is but I've heard it. Now i must find out!!

i married a guy like that once, LGS, he turned into a block of ice wiht me, and thawed himself out in the hands of other women. It was matter of survival in the cold womanwood. ;)


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

would that be no 1 or no 2 son?

The song you are thinking about is, "catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never ever let it go."

Sorry about your frozen ex.

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