Project Information
ANT LIA: The Role of Sex Determination in the Radiation of Antarctic Notothenioid Fish
Start Date:
End Date:
Antarctic animals face tremendous threats as Antarctic ice sheets melt and temperatures rise. About 34 million years ago, when Antarctica began to cool, most species of fish became locally extinct. A group called the notothenioids, however, survived due to the evolution of antifreeze. The group eventually split into over 120 species. Why did this group of Antarctic fishes evolve into so many species? One possible reason why a single population splits into two species relates to sex genes and sex chromosomes. Diverging species often have either different sex determining genes (genes that specify whether an individual’s gonads become ovaries or testes) or have different sex chromosomes (chromosomes that differ between males and females within a species, like the human X and Y chromosomes). We know the sex chromosomes of only a few notothenioid species and know the genetic basis for sex determination in none of them. The aims of this research are to: 1) identify sex chromosomes in species representing every major group of Antarctic notothenioid fish; 2) discover possible sex determining genes in every major group of Antarctic notothenioid fish; and 3) find sex chromosomes and possible sex determining genes in two groups of temperate, warmer water, notothenioid fish. These warmer water fish include groups that never experienced the frigid Southern Ocean and groups that had ancestors inhabiting Antarctic oceans that later adjusted to warmer waters. This project will help explain the mechanisms that led to the division of a group of species threatened by climate change. This information is critical to conserve declining populations of Antarctic notothenioids, which are major food sources for other Antarctic species such as bird and seals. The project will offer a diverse group of undergraduates the opportunity to develop a permanent exhibit at the Eugene Science Center Museum. The exhibit will describe the Antarctic environment and explain its rapid climate change. It will also introduce the continent’s bizarre fishes that live below the freezing point of water. The project will collaborate with the university’s Science and Comics Initiative and students in the English Department’s Comics Studies Minor to prepare short graphic novels explaining Antarctic biogeography, icefish specialties, and the science of this project as it develops.
Person Role
Postlethwait, John Investigator and contact
Desvignes, Thomas Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 2232891
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
4 (model output and interpretations)

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