(ORDO NEWS) — The largest and most populous colony of breeding fish hides deep under the ice of Antarctica. Fish nests occupy approximately 240 square kilometers east of the Antarctic Peninsula.
In February 2021, a German research vessel broke through the ice in the Weddell Sea to study marine life.
Lowering video cameras and other devices 500 meters down, closer to the seabed, the ship came across thousands of 75-cm nests, each of which contained one adult fish and up to 2,100 eggs. “ It was a truly amazing sight ,” says biologist Autun Purser of the Alfred Wegener Institute.
High-resolution video and photo cameras recorded more than 12,000 adult Neopagetopsis ionah fish. These fish, growing up to 60 centimeters, are adapted to life in conditions of extreme cold.
They produce antifreeze-like compounds and, thanks to the region’s oxygen-rich water, are among the only vertebrates to have colorless blood without hemoglobin.
Adult icefish build their round nests by scraping gravel and sand with their pelvic fins. However, before the start of the expedition, only a few scattered nests were seen, few and far from each other.“
I certainly didn’t know that they build nests on such a huge scale – more like seabirds and penguins ,” says Mark Belcher, who has been studying Antarctic fish for more than two decades.
In the meantime, the researchers left cameras and lights fixed over one of the most densely populated parts of the colony to learn more about breeding and nesting behavior; they hope to pick them up in 2023.
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