2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Antarctic notothenioid fish freeze avoidance and genome-wide evolution for life in the cold

Program Manager:
Dr. Charles Amsler


ASC POC/Implementer:
Addie Coyac / Cara Sucher

Dr. Chi-Hing Christina Cheng (Principal Investigator)

University of Illinois Urbana
Urbana, Illinois

Supporting Stations:  ARSV Laurence M. Gould, McMurdo Station, Palmer Station
Research Locations:  McMurdo Sound

Project Description:
This project studies the two intertwined adaptive phenotypes of Antarctic notothenioid fish evolved for cold survival: The ability to avoid freezing and the system-wide ability to perform normal daily cellular and physiological functions at freezing temperatures. In the field, researchers will collect fish and keep them at ambient temperatures to determine how much ice is in the spleen. These results will be compared to results from Palmer Station where the temperatures are milder and ice is present during the winter. Field work also includes collecting tissue and blood samples that will be returned to the home institution for genomic analysis and transcriptonimic studies. The transcriptonomic data and additional resources to be developed will also support Antarctic fish genome sequencing projects that have commenced in collaboration with the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) independent of this award.

Field Season Overview:
Seven project participants will deploy to McMurdo this austral summer season. Next year in the austral spring (July-August), six project participants will deploy to Palmer Station onboard the LMG. During day-trips to the sea ice, team members will collect specimens by trap and hook-and-line fishing through Jiffy drill holes, as well as diving through dive holes to collect notothenioid fishes from McMurdo Sound. They will fish for the Antarctic toothfish ( Dissostichus mawsoni) using a winched vertical line, to obtain a complete set of all tissues for transcriptome sequencing to generate a comprehensive reference transcriptome for this species. The team will collect data from CTD loggers (conductivity, temperature, depth) and will deploy temperature-depth recorders that will be retrieved by staff divers two years later in 2014-15. Several of the field experiments require the coldest possible flow-through ambient seawater to ensure that environment ice crystals in experimental fish are not inadvertently melted. A fish hut on the jetty will serve as a portable extreme-cold water aquarium to keep the experimental fish and carry out the studies.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Chi-Hing Christina Cheng (PI)
  • Paul Cziko
  • Art DeVries (Co-PI)
  • Elliot DeVries
  • Lauren Fields
  • Konrad Meister
  • Katherine Murphy

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs