Ecological features of antarctic fishes

  • M. Vacchi
  • E. Pisano
  • G. La Mesa


Only 1% of the world’s modern fish species live in antarctic waters, but the antarctic fish fauna display a number of different and unique features for large marine ecosystems.1,2 Most of the antarctic fishes possess so many physiological and biochemical peculiarities that they have been considered an extreme in the spectrum of animal diversification and adaptation.3 A well-known example are the icefish (family Channichthyidae), which are unique among vertebrates because they lack hemoglobin and oxygen is transported by the plasma.4 From an evolutionary perspective, the hemoglobin loss was possible due to greater adaptability of a reduced blood viscosity coupled with an increased oxygen solubility in cold antarctic waters. Another remarkable molecular adaptation is the presence of glycoproteins in body fluids that prevents freezing in these fishes and allows them to survive at subzero temperatures.5 The antarctic fish evolved the antifreeze protein at an estimated time of about 14 million years ago.6 From this time, the presence of small ice crystals, thick ice on the surface and on the bottom was no longer an obstacle for their survival and success during the severe cooling of the Southern Ocean.


Biomass Migration Depression Phytoplankton Sponge 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Vacchi
    • 1
  • E. Pisano
    • 2
  • G. La Mesa
    • 1
  1. 1.Istituto Centrale per la Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica Applicata al MareICRAMRomaItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Anatomia ComparataUniversità di GenovaGenovaItaly

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