Humans may be able to live in a variety of climates, but we've discovered all sorts of creatures that can survive at temperatures that would kill us in short order. Genetic changes have allowed animals to adapt to temperatures that range from blazingly hot to right around freezing. In today's issue of Science, researchers describe how species of octopus that live in the frigid waters of the poles manage to keep their nerve cells working despite the chill. Instead of genetic changes, however, this adaptation relies on a process that edits the genetic information before it's made into a protein, a form of genetic editing that may be driven by the temperature difference itself.
It's not easy to survive at temperatures that hover at or below freezing, which will slow down many of the metabolic reactions that keep cells alive. But for multicellular organisms, the challenges are a bit more extensive, as they have to keep nerve cells firing at a reasonable clip. These nerve cells depend on a set of proteins, called voltage-gated channels, that we know change their behavior at low temperatures.