Discover Nature Series with Jim Pierson

Jim is the Friend’s Treasurer and a retired science teacher. He is a avid hiker and has a constant thirst for discovery of all the natural features in the park. Living close to the park, he regularly hikes the miles of trails and captures his finds in photos. We enjoy and appreciate his collection and will profile many of his discoveries in the new year.

This month we have Snow Fleas or Springtails. Jim states: “They are very primitive insects, normally decomposers, breaking down leaf litter. Often times in the winter they congregate in the thousands on the snow – hence another common name – snow fleas.”

The following narrative is reprinted from Wikipedia:

Hypogastrura nivicola is a species of dark blue springtail. Its (US) English name is snow flea, but there are also insects called by that name. They are often seen jumping about on the surface of snow on a warm winter day in North America.

Researchers at Queen’s University (Canada) have sequenced and synthesised the anti-freeze-like protein that allows H. nivicola to operate in sub-zero environments, and found it to be glycine-rich, unlike any previously known protein. There are hopes that similar proteins may be useful for storing transplant organs and for producing better ice cream. By preventing the formation of ice crystals in tissues, organs could be stored at lower temperatures, increasing the time of their viability outside a living body. Unlike proteins with similar functions in other species, the protein found in H. nivicola breaks down easily at higher temperatures.

If you have any questions for Jim – he can be reached at