Scientists have discovered an icefish nesting site in the Weddell Sea that is beyond imagination: tens of millions of nests spread out over more than 240 square kilometers. Never seen.
German biologist Autun Purser tells the scientific information site Live Science that he was on the lookout for whales on the deck of the German icebreaker Polarstern, one night in February 2021, when his graduate student Lilian Boehringer alerted him. She was then monitoring the video feed from a camera pointed at the bottom of the Weddell Sea. The researcher, adds the site, could see icefish nests lining the seabed at the rate of one every 25 centimeters in all directions over an area of 240 square kilometers. “They were everywhere”, she declares.
When Dr Purser of the German Institute for Polar and Marine Research Alfred Wegener joined his colleague to view the footage, Write the New York Times, he was bewildered: “How come no one has seen this before?” Each of the nests is said to have an average of 1,700 eggs. Three quarters of them were watched by a single male to protect them from predators like seals.
Sixty million nests
The researchers, who share their discovery in a study published by Current Biology, estimated the number of nests in this breeding colony located 300 meters deep in the Weddell Sea at around 60 million. It is the most important fish breeding area ever discovered, specifies the American daily.
Icefish, the newspaper explains, live only in the cold waters of Antarctica and southern South America. Endowed with enormous hearts, “their blood is transparent, because they lack red blood cells and hemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout the body”.
The discovery could improve knowledge about the life cycle of these ice fish. Researchers deployed a camera to photograph the site for two years. Their mode of reproduction, notes the New York Times, “Could help manage and conserve their populations”. This is why the authors of the study “Argue that their research provides sufficient evidence to protect the Weddell Sea under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources”.