International Collaborative Expedition to Collect and Study Fish Indigenous to Sub-Antarctic Habitats
Notothenioid fish are a major group of fish in the Southern Ocean. The ancestral notothenioid fish stock of Antarctica probably arose as a sluggish, bottom-dwelling perciform species that evolved some 40-60 million years ago in the then temperate shelf waters of the Antarctic continent. The grounding of the ice sheet on the continental shelf and changing trophic conditions may have eliminated the taxonomically diverse late Eocene fauna and initiated the original diversification of notothenioids. On the High Antarctic shelf, notothenioids today dominate the ichthyofauna in terms of species diversity, abundance and biomass, the latter two at levels of 90-95%. Since the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, fish biologists from the Antarctic Treaty nations have made impressive progress in understanding the notothenioid ichthyofauna of the cold Antarctic marine ecosystem. However, integration of this work into the broader marine context has been limited, largely due to lack of access to, and analysis of, specimens of Sub-Antarctic notothenioid fishes. Sub-Antarctic fishes of the notothenioid suborder are critical for a complete understanding of the evolution, population dynamics, eco-physiology, and eco-biochemistry of their Antarctic relatives. This project will support an international, collaborative research cruise to collect and study fish indigenous to sub-antarctic habitats. The topics included in the research plans of the international team of researchers includes Systematics and Evolutionary Studies; Life History Strategies and Population Dynamics; Physiological, Biochemical, and Molecular Biological Investigations of Major Organ and Tissue Systems; Genomic Resources for the Sub-Antarctic Notothenioids; and Ecological Studies of Transitional Benthic Invertebrates. In a world that is experiencing changes in global climate, the loss of biological diversity, and the depletion of marine fisheries, the Antarctic, Sub-Antarctic, and their biota offer compelling natural laboratories for understanding the evolutionary impacts of these processes. The proposed work will contribute to development of a baseline understanding of these sensitive ecosystems, one against which future changes in species distribution and survival may be evaluated judiciously.
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