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Hibernation-like behavior in Antarctic fish -- on ice for winter
Date:3/5/2008

Scientists have discovered an Antarctic fish species that adopts a winter survival strategy similar to hibernation. Reporting this week in the journal PLoS ONE, the online journal from the Public Library of Science, scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the University of Birmingham reveal, for the first time, that the Antarctic cod Notothenia coriiceps effectively puts itself on ice to survive the long Antarctic winter.

The study showed that the fish activate a seasonal switch in ecological strategy going from one that maximises feeding and growth in summer to another that minimises the energetic cost of living during the long, Antarctic winter. The research demonstrates that at least some fish species can enter a dormant state, similar to hibernation that is not temperature driven and presumably provides seasonal energetic benefits. Scientists already know that Antarctic fish have very low metabolic rates and blood antifreeze proteins that allow them to live in near-freezing waters. This study demonstrates that Antarctic fish - which already live in the slow lane with extremely low rates of growth, metabolism and swimming activity - can in fact further depress these metabolic processes in winter.

Lead author Dr Hamish Campbell, formerly at the University of Birmingham, UK but now at University of Queensland, Australia said,

Hibernation is a pretty complex subject. Fish are generally incapable of suppressing their metabolic rate independently of temperature. Therefore, winter dormancy in fish is typically directly proportional to decreasing water temperatures. The interesting thing about these Antarctic cod is that their metabolic rates are reduced in winter even though the seawater temperature doesnt decrease much. It seems unlikely that the small winter reductions in water temperature that do occur are causing the measured decrease in metabolism. However, there are big seasonal changes in light levels, with 2
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Contact: Linda Capper
L.capper@bas.ac.uk
44-012-232-21448
British Antarctic Survey
Source:Eurekalert  

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