If conditions within an organism's environment occasionally or regularly become harsh, it may be advantageous for an organism to have a resistant stage built into the life cycle. In such a life history strategy, the organism suspends any growth, reproduction, or other activities for a period of time so that they may occur at a later, more hospitable time. This genetically determined resting stage, characterized by the cessation of development and protein synthesis and suppression of the metabolic rate, is called diapause. Many other kinds of resting stages, with different levels of suppression of physiological activities, are known. Some of these resistant stages can be extremely long-lived. In one case, seeds of the arctic lupine, a member of the pea family recovered from ancient lemming burrows in the Arctic, germinated in three days even though they were carbon-dated at more than 10,000 years old! Unfavorable conditions that are relatively predictable probably pose a simpler problem for organisms than do unpredictable conditions. Adaptations to the regular change of seasons in the temperate and polar regions may be relatively simple. For example, many seeds require a period of stratification, exposure to low temperatures for some minimum period, before they will germinate. This is a simple adaptation to ensure that germination occurs following the winter conditions rather than immediately prior to their onset. In contrast, unfavorable conditions that occur unpredictably pose considerable problems for organisms. In fact, unpredictability is probably a greater problem than is the severity of the unfavorable period. How can organisms cope with the unpredictable onset of good or poor conditions? Many adaptations to this general problem are based on a resting stage that awaits favorable conditions. We will consider two examples from the vertebrates. The first is the red kangaroo. This marsupial inhabits the deserts of central Australia where the onset of rains and the resulting sudden growth of vegetation are extremely unpredictable. Obviously, it is advantageous for a kangaroo female to produce young at a time when plant productivity is sufficient to support her offspring. For such a relatively large mammal, however, gestation (the period of development during pregnancy) is so long that if a female waited to mate and carry the young until after the rains came, the favorable period might be past. The kangaroo's life history adaptation to this problem involves the use of embryonic diapause during gestation (development in the uterus). After a 31-day gestation period, the female gives birth to a tiny helpless young typical of marsupials. The newborn crawls into the mother's pouch and attaches to a teat where it continues to grow and develop. After 235 days it leaves the pouch but remains with the mother and obtains milk from her. Two days after giving birth, the female mates again. The fertilized egg enters a 204-day period of embryonic diapause during which it remains in the uterus but does not attach. It then implants, and 31 days later, birth of the second young occurs. Note that the first young leaves the pouch at just this time. Again, the female mates, fertilization occurs, and another diapause follows. The eventual result is that at any one time, the female has three young at various stages of development: one in diapause, one in the pouch, and one outside the pouch. Among other benefits, this allows her to freeze the development of an embryo during times of drought and food shortage until the offspring in the pouch is able to leave. A similar strategy – accelerated development combined with a resting stage – has also allowed amphibians to inhabit deserts. The spadefoot toads, such as Couch's spadefoot toad, inhabit some of the most severe deserts in North America. Adults of this species burrow deeply into the substrate where it is cooler and perhaps more moist. Here they enter into a resting state in which they are covered with a protective layer of dead skin. When it rains, the adults emerge and congregate to mate at temporary ponds. Development is greatly accelerated: the eggs hatch within 48 hours, and the tadpoles change into toads at 16-18 days. Consequently, they can complete the life cycle during the brief window of favorable conditions, then return to the resistant resting stage to await the next rainfall. Resting stages thus comprise a series of adaptations that allow the species to avoid the most difficult conditions for life.