Filling a crucial role in the Ross Sea food-web is a large, cod-like fish – the Antarctic toothfish. Sold in up-market restaurants the world over as ‘Chilean sea bass’, these giants of the icy water can grow to more than two metres in length and reach weights of 150kg.
There are no sharks in Antarctic waters so toothfish fill this role, actively feeding on squid and smaller fish. At the other end of the scale, toothfish are preyed upon by a host of larger locals, including Weddell seals and killer whales.
Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) demonstrate some remarkable physiological features in order to thrive in the icy waters of the Ross Sea. Their heart beats once every six seconds. This slow metabolism means they are long-lived, possibly reaching upwards of 50 years or more. Toothfish produce antifreeze glycoproteins to prevent their body tissues from freezing in the sub-zero habitat of the Ross Sea.
Watch this short video (including comments from NZ toothfish biologist Assoc. Prof. Clive Evans) to see toothfish at home under the ice.
Toothfish photos/footage courtesy of Paul A. Cziko, Chris Cheng & Rob Robbins.