Deep in the frozen wastes of the Siberian tundra lives a super cool little creature—so cool in fact that it has been known to survive years of freezing! This little creature, the Siberian newt, is an amphibian: it can live in the water, or on the land. In this amphibian’s case, it can also live in the frozen ground or encased in ice. The newt is different from humans in how it reacts to the cold weather. While human bodies use more energy, working harder to warm you up, the newt’s body adapts to the cold and slows down until it almost stops working at all!

Most creatures’ bodies are made up largely of water, but a newt’s works in such a way that only certain body parts freeze. Many scientists believe that God gives the Siberian newt its own “anti-freeze”, allowing it to maintain liquids at 40 degrees below freezing! This way the newt can freeze almost completely, while the important organs, like the heart and brain, remain alive and well.

In some cases newts have been found, suspended in ice nearly 50 feet deep. Local legend supposes that some of these newts were frozen alongside woolly mammoths nearly 12,000 years ago. That wouldn’t sound so ridiculous if it weren’t for the fact that, when thawed, these tough, little creatures jump up and scamper away. However long they’ve been there, the woolly mammoths are still frozen. Fascinating.

Like many other animals living in cold regions, the newt takes a long nap during the winter. In fact, the newt ends up sleeping more than half of the year. Imagine spending most of your year sleeping—that would pretty much cover the entire school-year. Alarm clocks can’t even be set for that long, which is good, since a newt wouldn’t use one anyway. Their bodies wake them up in the spring when the weather begins to warm up, just in time to breed and lay eggs.

After a fancy courtship dance, the female may lay as many as 300 eggs. That’s a lot of kids for one couple! Then she leaves without even saying good-bye, and never comes back. The babies, or larvae, that hatch from the eggs a few weeks later are smaller than your pinky toe. They gobble up tiny water creatures, keep an eye out for hungry predator insects and develop lungs that will allow them to live on the land. In a short time they’ll be crawling into their water bed for that long, cold nap their parents just finished!

Many people are discovering that newts make great pets. They seem to thrive in home aquariums, and prove to be pretty quiet and unobtrusive. Plus, they’re easy to take care of—they don’t have to be walked, or groomed, or potty trained. They are pretty light eaters, and slugs and bugs don’t cost a bundle. They sleep about half of their lives.

And, best of all, if you’re going on a week vacation and can’t take your pet Siberian newt, it’s not a problem. Just pop ‘em in the freezer and let ‘em chill.

Now that’s pretty cool.

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