Publishing 12 times a year. ISSN 0006-3568.
Smaller amphibians and reptiles can experience broad excursions of body temperature, and many temperate or tropical montane species may overwinter in sites where temperatures drop below 0°C. Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) are well studied because of their tolerance of freezing. Live frogs can be found contacting ice when uncovered from winter retreats in frozen soil or leaf litter. All of their organs may be encased in ice, and Alaskan wood frogs can endure many weeks of freezing at temperatures down to –14°C in the wild, showing no breathing, heartbeat, or other vital signs. Given such natural events, and considering the anesthetizing actions of cold on membranes and blockage of nerve conduction, Harvey Lillywhite and his colleagues suggest in an article in this issue that cooling and freezing is a humane form of euthanasia, and whole-body cooling provides a useful supplement to gaseous or chemical anesthesia in smaller amphibians and reptiles. These methods are currently prohibited by research guidelines, which the authors propose should be reexamined. Photograph: Janet Storey.
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