Many of the physiological adaptations evolved in terrestrial invertebrates to resist desiccation have also been shown to enhance the survival of low temperatures. In this study we have examined temporal changes in the physiology of the collembolan Folsomia candida during acclimation to mild desiccation stress (98.2% RH), and how physiological changes correlate with resistance to subsequent cold shock. heat shock and acute desiccation stress. Drought-acclimation increased the resistance to cold and acute drought but reduced the resistance to heat shock. The composition of membrane phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) changed during acclimation resulting in a higher degree of unsaturation by the end of the 192-h acclimation period. This resembles typical membrane alterations seen in ectothermic animals exposed to cold. Only small changes were seen in the neutral lipid fraction. The temporal changes in cold resistance and drought resistance correlated well with changes in PLFA composition and accumulation of sugars and polyols ('cryoprotectives'). It is proposed that the drought-induced PLFA desaturation, combined with the membrane protecting accumulation of cryoprotectives, are important physiological adaptations providing tolerance to both desiccation and cold. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.