Biology and ecology of mackerel icefish, Champsocephalus gunnari: An Antarctic fish lacking hemoglobin

The mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari) is a prominent member of the coastal fish fauna of the Seasonal Pack-Ice Zone and the islands north of it. Separated into a number of stocks, its distribution ranges from the Scotia Arc region, namely South Georgia, in the Atlantic Ocean sector to the Kerguelen-Heard Plateau in the Indian Ocean sector. Mackerel icefish have been heavily exploited since the beginning of the 1970s with reported annual catches exceeding 50–100,000 tonnes in some years. C. gunnari has many characteristics typical of Antarctic fish species with respect to life history characteristics, such as egg size, fecundity and growth. These fall well within the range of other sympatric red-blooded notothenioids; eggs are large and yolky. Egg diameter, egg production per gram body weight and growth performance at South Georgia and the Kerguelen Islands was comparable with similar-sized nototheniids and channichthyids. Stocks of C. gunnari have a number of biological characteristics in common, such as feeding mode and food, early life history and growth in the first years of life. However, stocks in sub-Antarctic waters differ in reproductive characteristics, such as length and age at first spawning, natural mortality and life expectancy from those on more southerly grounds. They may grow to more than 60 cm and may become 13–15 yrs old. However, in the vicinity of South Georgia and the Kerguelen Islands, fish apparently do not exhaust this growth potential fully. Their ability to reproduce at an early age coupled with a comparatively high fecundity and growth performance may mean stocks of C. gunnari in sub-antarctic waters have far more resilience and a greater capacity to rebuild than species with the slower reproductive rates common in other notothenioids.


Publication status:
Authors: Kock, Karl-Hermann, Everson, Inigo

1 December, 1997
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology / 118
Link to published article: