Freezing avoidance of the Antarctic icefishes (Channichthyidae) across thermal gradients in the Southern Ocean

Kevin T. Bilyk, Arthur L. DeVries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Biogeographic studies separate the Antarctic Notothenioid fish fauna into high- and low-latitude species. Past studies indicate that some species found in the high-latitude freezing waters of the High-Antarctic Zone have low-serum hysteresis freezing points, while other species restricted to the low-latitude seasonal pack ice zone have higher serum hysteresis freezing points above the freezing point of seawater (-1. 9°C), but the relationship has not been systematically investigated. Freeze avoidance was quantified in 11 species of Antarctic icefishes by determining the hysteresis freezing points of their blood serum, in addition, the freezing point depression from serum osmolytes, the antifreeze activity from serum antifreeze glycoproteins (AFGPs), and the antifreeze activity from serum antifreeze potentiating protein were measured for each species. Serum hysteresis freezing point, a proxy for organismal freeze avoidance, decreased as species were distributed at increasing latitude (linear regression r2 0. 66, slope -0. 046°C °latitude-1), which appeared largely independent of phylogenetic influences. Greater freeze avoidance at high latitudes was largely a result of higher levels of antifreeze activity from serum AFGPs relative to those in species inhabiting the low-latitude waters. The icefish fauna could be separated into a circum High-Antarctic Group of eight species that maintained serum hysteresis freezing points below -1. 9°C even when sampled from less severe habitats. The remaining three species with low-latitude ranges restricted to the waters of the northern part of the west Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Arc Islands had serum hysteresis freezing points at or above -1. 9°C due to significantly lower combined activity from all of their serum antifreeze proteins than found in the High-Antarctic Zone icefish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-213
Number of pages11
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • AFGP
  • Antarctic fish
  • Antarctica
  • Antifreeze glycoprotein
  • Antifreeze protein
  • Channichthyidae
  • Distributional patterns
  • Freeze avoidance
  • Notothenioid
  • Notothenioid distribution
  • Thermal hysteresis


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