Effects of Low Temperatures on Microorganisms, Plants, and Cold-Blooded Animals

  • M. J. Ashwood-Smith
Part of the The International Cryogenics Monograph Series book series (INCMS)


Ecology can be defined as the science of the relationships between living organisms and their physical and biotic environment. The temperature of the environment is one of the major factors which has to be considered. As a science ecology is of great importance to man and his very existence is dependent on a knowledge of its laws. These laws were often obtained empirically as a result of hundreds of years of animal husbandry. Sometimes their workings were brought to light the hard way as has been witnessed recently with the widespread misuse of toxic insecticides. No organism lives without influencing another or in its turn being influenced by others. The numerous food chains in nature are pertinent examples of this maxim, although there are some primitive microorganisms which can obtain from inorganic sources all the necessary nutrients to enable them to live and reproduce. Bacteria, yeasts, and fungi are often regarded by laymen as enemies which cause diseases of man, animals, and plants. Some men will know, of course, that yeasts make life easier and happier by producing alcohol, that some fungi can be eaten and that others produce antibiotics. They will know also that sewage disposal is dependent on bacterial action and some may know that soil nitrogen is made available to plants by the action of bacteria. With these few examples, however, the ordinary man will be content and will leave the other and more delicate balances of nature to the scientists. No plants or animals evolve over the centuries in isolation from their surroundings. Any one of a number of small factors influencing any one part of the habitat will cause a change in the nature of the organisms being studied and in the rate and direction of evolution. Much of ecology is concerned with the complex relationships of microorganisms or animals and plants amongst themselves. The physical environment is also important and the subject matter of this chapter is in the last resort self defeating in ecological terms as it is neither possible nor perhaps correct to isolate for study one aspect of the physical environment, low temperature, in order to discuss in detail its implications in the life of animals, plants and microorganisms.


Cold Acclimation Freezing Point Cold Shock None None Frost Resistance 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. J. Ashwood-Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Radiobiological Research UnitMedical Research CouncilHarwell, DidcotEngland

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