Chionodraco rastrospinosus

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Ocellated icefish
(Chionodraco rastrospinosus)
Chionodraco rastrospinosus.jpg
A specimen caught off the South Shetland Islands. Photo Valerie Loeb of the NOAA
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Notothenioidei
Family: Channichthyidae
Genus: Chionodraco
Species: C. rastrospinosus
Binomial name
Chionodraco rastrospinosus
DeWitt & Hureau, 1979 [1][2]

The ocellated icefish (Chionodraco rastrospinosus) is a fish of the family Channichthyidae.[3][4] It lives in the cold waters off Antarctica and is known for having transparent haemoglobin-free blood.[5][6]

C. rastrospinosus live in the Southern Ocean up to a depth of 1 km. They grow up to 52 centimetres (20 in) and average 30 centimetres (12 in). The adults feed on krill and other fish.[3] Larvae are 17 mm long when they hatch, and grow by about 2 mm a week. The larval stage lasts for up to 18 months during which they feed mainly on krill. They become sexually mature at four years, and normally live up to about eight years, but sometimes as long as twelve.[4][7] In the Antarctic autumn, adult C. rastrospinosus migrate to shallow waters to spawn at a depth of 200–300 m. The eggs are scattered and hatch six months later around April.[8]

Blood colour[edit]

Haemoglobin gives oxygenated blood its red colour. Unlike other vertebrates, fish of the Antarctic icefish family (Channichthyidae) do not use haemoglobin to transport oxygen around their bodies; instead, the small amount of oxygen that simply dissolves in blood plasma is utilized.[9][10] In 2011 Tokyo Sea Life Park claimed that C. rastrospinosus has totally transparent blood "like clear water", after dissecting a specimen.[5][10] In 1954, Ruud noted that Chaenocephalus aceratus, another member of this family, had almost transparent blood, in contrast to the yellowish blood of other members.[11] C. aceratus and C. rastrospinosus both fail to express the major adult α-globin, α1, due to the same 5' truncation of the gene, and have lost the β-globin gene entirely. Zhao et al. propose that an ancestral channichthyid fish lost expression of both genes through a single mutation.[12] Antarctic icefish also have very few erythrocytes. It is believed they benefit from loss of reliance on haemoglobin-containing erythrocytes for oxygen transport by having less viscous, more easily pumped blood.[12] They compensate for this loss by having lower metabolic rates, larger gills, scaleless skin that can contribute more to gas exchange, wider capillaries and significantly increased blood volume and cardiac output.[12]

Captive specimens[edit]

Tokyo Sea Life Park holds the only captive fish. A male and female pair were donated along with other species by fishermen of the Fukuei-maru krill trawler as part of a programme to collect bycatch for the park.[13] In January 2013 the female spawned,[10] and by 7 May the first egg hatched with about 20 more larva in the following two weeks.[14] Previously, live specimens have been held for scientific research elsewhere.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chionodraco rastrospinosus". World register of marine species. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Chionodraco rastrospinosus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  3. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). "Chionodraco rastrospinosus" in FishBase. February 2013 version.
  4. ^ a b Mesa, M.; Ashford, J. (2008). "Age and growth of ocellated icefish, Chionodraco rastrospinosus DeWitt and Hureau, 1979, from the South Shetland Islands". Polar Biology. 31 (11): 1333. doi:10.1007/s00300-008-0471-7. 
  5. ^ a b "World's First Exhibit of Icefish: Antarctic Fish with Colorless Blood─Tokyo Sea Life Park 2011/08/25". Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Warnes, Sophie (5 April 2013). "Japanese aquarium shows off mysterious fish with clear blood". London: Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  7. ^ La Mesa, M.; Catalano, B.; Jones, C. D. (2013). "Early life history of the ocellated icefish, Chionodraco rastrospinosus, off the Antarctic Peninsula". Antarctic Science: 1. doi:10.1017/S0954102012001095. 
  8. ^ Damerau, Malte; Matschiner, Michael; Salzburger, Walter; Hanel, Reinhold (2012). "Comparative population genetics of seven notothenioid fish species reveals high levels of gene flow along ocean currents in the southern Scotia Arc, Antarctica" (PDF). Polar Biology. 35 (7): 1073. doi:10.1007/s00300-012-1155-x. 
  9. ^ Sidell, B. D. (2006). "When bad things happen to good fish: The loss of hemoglobin and myoglobin expression in Antarctic icefishes". Journal of Experimental Biology. 209 (10): 1791–802. doi:10.1242/jeb.02091. PMID 16651546. 
  10. ^ a b c "Japan aquarium shows mysterious clear-blood fish". Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Ruud, Johan T. (1954). "Vertebrates without Erythrocytes and Blood Pigment". Nature. 173 (4410): 848–50. doi:10.1038/173848a0. PMID 13165664. 
  12. ^ a b c d Zhao, Y.; Ratnayake-Lecamwasam, M; Parker, SK; Cocca, E; Camardella, L; Di Prisco, G; Detrich Hw, 3rd (1998). "The Major Adult alpha -Globin Gene of Antarctic Teleosts and Its Remnants in the Hemoglobinless Icefishes. Calibration of the Mutational Clock for Nuclear Genes". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 273 (24): 14745–52. doi:10.1074/jbc.273.24.14745. PMID 9614073. 
  13. ^ Nakamura, Satoshi; Tada. "Collecting and exhibition of Antarctic organisms at Tokyo Sea Life Park" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Kameda, Masaaki (25 May 2013). "Tokyo Sea Life exhibits rare larvae". The Japan Times. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 

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