Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 28, Issue 11, pp 828-832

First online:

Nesting behavior of the icefish Chaenocephalus aceratus at Bouvetøya Island, Southern Ocean

  • H. William. DetrichIIIAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Northeastern University Email author 
  • , Christopher D. JonesAffiliated withUnited States Antarctic Marine Living Resources Program, Southwest Fisheries Science Center
  • , Stacy KimAffiliated withMoss Landing Marine Laboratories
  • , Anthony W. NorthAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey
  • , Andrew ThurberAffiliated withMoss Landing Marine Laboratories
  • , Marino VacchiAffiliated withUniversità degli Studi di Genova

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We describe in situ observations on nesting by the Scotia Sea (or blackfin) icefish Chaenocephalus aceratus (Lönnberg) that constitute the first substantive evidence of egg brooding and parental care by species of the family Channichthyidae. At Boutetoya Island six fish, all apparently male, were observed guarding egg nests at depths of 141–148 m during an ROV deployment. Eggs were laid as aggregated, round masses (~20–25 cm diameter) in shallow, circular depressions (~1-m diameter, ~20-cm depth) that were probably excavated by the parent(s) to protect the nests. The fish guardians remained tenaciously in contact with the eggs despite disturbances caused by the ROV, reacting to this threat with stress and defense behaviors. Because brooding fishes are more susceptible to the population impacts from trawl fisheries, we argue that this life history should be kept in mind in designing management schemes.