Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 127–150 | Cite as

Atlantic fishes in the Chukchi Borderland

  • Catherine W. Mecklenburg
  • Ingvar Byrkjedal
  • Oleg V. Karamushko
  • Peter Rask Møller
Original Paper


With the retreat of the Arctic sea ice in September 2009, the Russian–American Long-Term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA) expedition reached north of the U.S. 200-mile limit to the Chukchi Borderland, a region of complex seafloor topography that had rarely been sampled for fishes, and never by trawling from a ship. Single tows of a small bottom trawl net at three sites from 74°07′ to 76°33′N at depths of 227–588 m caught 767 fish in total. They were distributed among 12 species, 7 families (Gadidae, Cottidae, Psychrolutidae, Liparidae, Stichaeidae, Zoarcidae, Pleuronectidae), and 4 orders (Gadiformes, Scorpaeniformes, Perciformes, Pleuronectiformes). The collection includes the first record of Lycodes adolfi from the Pacific arctic region, the second record of Artediellus atlanticus between the western Laptev Sea and Baffin Bay, and records of Careproctus reinhardti, Cottunculus microps, Triglops nybelini, and Lycodes seminudus which were rare for the Pacific arctic region. All 12 species also occur, and most are common, in Atlantic arctic waters. For each species, the DNA barcodes from the Chukchi Borderland collection and recent collections from the Beaufort Sea indicate that they are the same species as barcoded specimens from Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, the Greenland and Barents Seas, Svalbard, and other Atlantic arctic waters. To establish geographic context, the world distribution of each species is reviewed. The Chukchi Borderland collection reveals a broader distribution in the Arctic for some species than previously realized and provides strong support for continuous distributions from one side of the Arctic to the other, if not completely circumpolar distributions, at middepths along the continental slopes. Whether there is any connection between the presence of the typically Atlantic species found in the Chukchi Borderland in 2009 and increased warm Atlantic Water inflow remains to be determined from future ichthyological and oceanographic sampling. The identities of fishes collected more recently in nearby deep waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas indicate that the species found in the Chukchi Borderland in 2009, which, at the time, were first or rare records for the region, are actually relatively common in the region. Future exploratory and monitoring investigations could help determine if species abundances or assemblages at middepths in the Pacific side of the Arctic shift in response to changes in Atlantic Water influx.


RUSALCA Chukchi Borderland Arctic fishes Atlantic Water Taxonomy Zoogeography 



The research for this paper was supported mainly by awards to Point Stephens Research from NOAA for participation in the RUSALCA program. Identification and preservation of the 2011 and 2012 collections from the Beaufort Sea was funded by contracts FP21759 and FP32430 from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The maps were created by T. Anthony Mecklenburg, Point Stephens Research, Auke Bay Alaska. Natalia V. Chernova, Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, participated in the fishing effort on RUSALCA 2009 and provided helpful information on identifications. Arve Lynghammar, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, Norway, took tissue samples during the TUNU-IV expedition to northeast Greenland in 2010 which contributed to the barcode database. Samples were sequenced by the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, under the direction of Dirk Steinke with funding by Genome Canada. We thank Jørgen S. Christiansen, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, chief scientist for the TUNU expeditions, for providing opportunities for biodiversity research. The Fram Centre supported a presentation by C.W.M. on the Chukchi Borderland fishes at TEAM-Fish Workshop I: Arctic Fishes at Stake, Tromsø, Norway, 7 November 2011, convened by Christiansen at the University of Tromsø. C.W.M. also thanks the captain and crew of the RV Professor Khromov and Terry Whitledge, chief scientist for RUSALCA 2004, 2009, and 2012, for special efforts to reach and sample the northern locations; Morgan S. Busby for assisting the fish teams in 2009; Marshall Schwartz for CTD data; and Kathleen Crane, Robert Pickart, Rebecca Woodgate and other RUSALCA scientists for information on the physical setting. Brenda A. Holladay supervised deployment of the otter trawl for the RUSALCA and reviewed an early partial draft of the manuscript. We thank the captain and crew of the RV Jan Mayen (renamed RV Helmer Hanssen in 2011) for their care and for deployment of the nets on TUNU expeditions. Leon Yun-Chih Liao provided photographs of an egg case and embryo of Amblyraja hyperborea from the CHINARE 2010 collection. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers and Odd Aksel Bergstad for their helpful comments.

Supplementary material

12526_2013_192_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (149 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 148 kb)


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine W. Mecklenburg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ingvar Byrkjedal
    • 3
  • Oleg V. Karamushko
    • 4
  • Peter Rask Møller
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of IchthyologyCalifornia Academy of SciencesSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Point Stephens ResearchAuke BayUSA
  3. 3.University Museum of Bergen, University of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Murmansk Marine Biological Institute, Kola Science CenterRussian Academy of SciencesMurmanskRussia
  5. 5.Natural History Museum of DenmarkUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen ØDenmark

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