Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 1131–1145 | Cite as

An analysis of maximum body size and designation of size categories for notothenioid fishes

  • Joseph T. EastmanEmail author
Original Paper


There has been no comprehensive study of body size in notothenioid fishes. Therefore I evaluated maximum total length (TL) as an axis of the evolutionary radiation. Lengths are provided for 141 species that collectively range in maximum adult size from 5.7 cm (Harpagifer nybelini) to 225 cm (Dissostichus eleginoides), a 39-fold difference. For the 138 species analyzed, the mean length is 33.5 cm and the median is 26.6 cm. Based on 10 cm-bins, notothenioids are apportioned into small (< 10 cm), medium (10–39 cm), medium-large (40–91 cm), and large (> 200 cm) size categories. The 20–29 cm bin contains the most species (32%). Most species (71%) are of medium size, 21% of species are medium-large, and 7% and ≈ 1% are small and large, respectively. The median lengths vary among the five cryonotothenioid families as well as among eight clades (genera and families). Among families, median and mean lengths are smallest in the Harpagiferidae and largest in Channichthyidae. Among clades, Harpagifer has the smallest median length (8.3 cm) followed by Artedidraco (12.5 cm). Several middle-sized clades do not differ in median size: Patagonotothen, Trematomus, Pogonophryne, and Bathydraconidae. Two clades of medium-large size species, Notothenia and Channichthyidae, are of similar size. A significant but weak positive relationship exists between maximum length and maximum depth. With the exception of miniature species ( ≤ 1 cm), the 126 species of cryonotothenioids (the Antarctic clade) encompass the range in size categories in actinopterygians in general, and the disparity in maximum lengths among individual species indicates that body size is an axis of the radiation. I discuss the size of notothenioids relative to other teleosts, the ecological implications of large species in the food web, and the similarity of the cryonotothenioid axes of diversification to those of Lake Baikal sculpins.


Antarctic Maximum total length Disparity in size Food web 



For answering my questions and providing information and advice, I am most grateful to Arcady Balushkin (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences), Esteban Barrera-Oro (Instituto Antártico Argentino), Richard R. Eakin, Stuart Hanchet (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand), Mathias Hüne (Fundación Ictiológica, Santiago, Chile), Valentina G. Sideleva (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences), Andrew Stewart (National Museum of New Zealand Te Paupa), and Olga Voskoboinikova (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences). Three reviewers also provided extremely useful comments. The study is supported by NSF ANT 04-36190.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The author has followed all applicable national and institutional guidelines for the collection, care, and ethical use of research organisms and material in the conduct of the research, specifically those of the Ohio University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical SciencesOhio UniversityAthensUSA

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