Nearly 75 of the 80-100 species of Antarctic benthic (bottom-dwelling) fish belong to the group "Nototheniiformes", most of which are sluggish bottom dwellers, with large heads and tapering bodies. As a group, they are highly diversified in structure, habit and distribution. Although Antarctic bottom fish can be locally important in coastal regions, such as Iles Kerguelen and South Georgia they are usually insignificant in the Southern Ocean as a whole, because the narrow continental shelf surrounding the continent limits the abundance of spawning sites of these bottom dwellers.

There are no reliable estimates of the stocks, biomass or productivity of Antarctic fish. Although the USSR is now marketing "Notothenia rossi" in Moscow and other cities, it is difficult even to guess the magnitude of this or any other fish stock in the Antarctic. Their remarkable adaptation to temperatures below the natural freezing points of their body fluids has recently begun to attract considerable attention.

The natural anti-freeze (a glyco-protein) isolated from an Antarctic fish may be useful as a refrigerant for red blood cells, sperm and tissue. The ice fish of the Antarctic are the only vertebrates which entirely lack the red oxygen-carrying pigment, hemoglobin, in their blood. This condition is another adaptation to cold conditions-by reducing the number of red blood cells the viscosity of the blood at low temperatures is decreased and the energy expenditure of circulating the blood reduced. The study of adaptation to extreme polar conditions in fish and other animals is among the most fascinating and promising in Antarctic biology.


 • Prehistory
More background information on the prehistory of Antarctica.
 • Antarctic Adventure 1997
Information on the geography and climate of Antarctica.