May 14, 2022 9:36 pm

Largest fish colony on Earth discovered in Antarctica

Natacha Payà 3 min
Jonas drake
Image of a nest guarded by an adult fish, Neopagetopsis ionah. Current Biology

in the antarctic ocean o Austral incredible things happen. Although it is the second smallest ocean in the world, after the Arctic, home to the largest colony of fish nests on Earth. an ecosystem unique on the planet with a huge playing area.

An expedition with a happy ending

The discovery has occurred on the Filchner ice shelf, in the southern Weddel Sea, near Antarctica. Autun Purses and his colleagues at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany discovered in February 2021 thousands of nests made by the fish Neopagetopsis ionah or Jonas striped draco in Castilian.

With the help of exploration boats and qualified cameras, they carried out a six-week expedition on the seabed. They tracked down and filmed what, by chance, has become an authentic “Guinness record”. The results of the voyage were published a week ago in the scientific journal Current Biology.

They were aboard the RV Polarstern, a huge German polar exploration ship designed to navigate through icebergs, when ran into these 60 million nests. According to Purses and his team, it is the largest breeding area in the world, spread over hundreds of square kilometers.

A hatchery bigger than Alicante

The colony constitutes an area of ​​approximately 240 square kilometers (km2) on the seabed. To give us an idea, it is a piece of land larger than the municipal term of Alicante and located more than 500 meters deep. An ecosystem teeming with one or two active nests per m2.

According to Purses, who directed the underwater image of the ship, each nest is about 15 centimeters deep, 75 centimeters in diameter and contains between 1,500 and 2,000 guarded eggs and guarded by an adult fish. Definitely, today it is the largest fish farm known to date.

The researchers don’t know how long do they take to hatch these eggs, since until 25 years ago it was not even known where these icefish spawned. To solve these puzzles, the team of researchers has installed two cameras at the bottom of the sea near the active nests to try to capture images of the hatching of these little ones.

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