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No. 94: Jul-Aug 1994

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Those Strange Antarctic Fishes

Notothenioid fish from Antarctic waters
A representative Notothenioid fish from Antarctic waters. (From: Eastman, Joseph T,; Antarctic Fish Biology, San Diego, 1993.)
In the frigid waters ringing the continent of Antarctica live approximately 275 species of fishes, 95 of which are assigned to the suborder Notothenioidei. This particular group of fishes is renowned for its unusual adaptations, as outlined below by D. Policansky:

"Some of them have glycoprotein antifreezes in their blood, some have no hemoglobin, some have so small a temperature tolerance that they die at temperatures above 4C, some are neutrally buoyant despite lacking swim bladders, and some live as deep as 2950 meters. The suborder has no known fossils, largely because no bony feature -- indeed, no single character of any sort -- can be used to define it. How did these animals arrive there, what are their ancestors, how do they make a living in such an environment, and how can they support commercial harvests?"

(Policansky, David; "Southernmost Fauna," Science, 264:1002, 1994.)

Comment. Those species lacking hemoglobin in their blood are doubly perplexing: (1) Zoologists still do not know how sufficient oxygen is transported in these fishes, for what substitutes for normal blood seems inadequate; (2) How could they have evolved from hemoglobin-carrying fishes? and (3) Why switch from hemoglobin at all when other Antarctic fishes find it perfectly satisfactory?

From Science Frontiers #94, JUL-AUG 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987