Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 1777–1788 | Cite as

Life history traits of a poorly known pelagic fish, Aethotaxis mitopteryx (Perciformes, Notothenioidei) from the Weddell Sea

  • Mario La Mesa
  • Fortunata Donato
  • Emilio Riginella
  • Carlotta Mazzoldi
Original Paper


Amongst the nototheniid subfamily Pleuragramminae, Aethotaxis mitopteryx is an infrequently collected high Antarctic species with an array of morphological and physiological adaptations supporting an evolutionarily derived benthopelagic lifestyle. The present study deals with some poorly known life history traits of this species, counting on 79 specimens collected in the Weddell Sea during 2014 and 2015 austral summer. Annulation pattern in sagittal otoliths were used to assess population age structure and growth rate, while macroscopic and histological analyses of gonads were performed to estimate reproductive status and features of gametogenesis. The sex ratio of the sampled population was close to parity, with females significantly larger than males. Based on the von Bertalanffy growth model, females attained a larger maximum size (40 vs. 27 cm) at a lower rate (0.05 vs. 0.12 years−1) than males. Individual longevity was remarkable in both sexes, females and males attaining 62 and 32 years of age, respectively. Females showed group synchronous oocyte development and presumed high reproductive effort, as indicated by the large size of residual hydrated oocytes in regressing individuals (4.6–4.8 mm). Body sizes at sexual maturity were 33 and 19 cm in females and males, corresponding to 32 and 11 years of age, respectively. All specimens were caught far from the reproductive season. From an evolutionary perspective, it appears that the process of pelagization similarly influenced the life strategies of the species within the clade Pleuragramminae, which shared high reproductive effort linked to early sexual maturity, slow somatic growth and long life span.


Life strategies Age and growth Reproduction Nototheniid Weddell sea 



We are much indebted to the Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung for providing the opportunity to collect samples during two RV Polarstern expeditions PS82 (ANT-XXIX/9) and PS96 (ANT-XXXI/2). We wish to thank for their invaluable contribution all the crew members and scientific staff aboard of the R/V Polarstern during the field activities. Finally, we would like to sincerely thank P. Cziko, M. Landaeta and M. Militelli for their valuable comments on the early version of the manuscript. This study was supported by the Progetto Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide (PNRA) and by the Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università`e della Ricerca (MIUR).

Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors declare to have no conflicts of interest and that all applicable institutional, national or international guidelines for the use and care of animals were strictly followed in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNR, Institute of Marine Sciences, UOS AnconaAnconaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Integrative Marine EcologyZoological Station Anton DohrnNaplesItaly
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly

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