Evolution Reshaped Life for the Water Column: The Skeleton of the Antarctic Silverfish Pleuragramma antarctica Boulenger, 1902

  • Olga Voskoboinikova
  • H. William DetrichIII
  • R. Craig Albertson
  • John H. Postlethwait
  • Laura Ghigliotti
  • Eva Pisano
Part of the Advances in Polar Ecology book series (AVPE, volume 3)


The Antarctic silverfish is a neutrally buoyant notothenioid fish that lives in resource-rich pelagic habitats through all life history stages. Given the ancestral benthic origin of notothenioids, the ability of this species to live in the water column required extensive evolutionary adjustments centered on buoyancy, a process referred to as secondary pelagization. Many of these adaptive changes are found in the silverfish skeleton, including partial or total reduction of bony elements, which reduces skeletal mass and body density. Other novel skeletal traits, such as lengthening of bones of the ethmoidal portion of the neurocranium and jaws, are related to foraging in the water column and planctophagia.

Reconfiguration of silverfish skeletal traits occurred via paedomorphosis (the retention of characters in adults that are juvenile traits in outgroup species) and reflects heterochronic shifts in gene expression during development.

In this chapter we describe the skeletal anatomy of silverfish larvae, juveniles and adults, including evidence for ontogenetic changes that relate to pelagic life. We then present the molecular basis of skeletal reduction as revealed by analysis of craniofacial gene expression during early skeletogenesis.


Secondary pelagization Skeletogenesis Bone mineralization 



This work was supported by the Russian National Scientific Program No 01201351186 (OV), the Italian Program for Antarctic Research (LG, EP), by NIH grant R01AG031922 from the National Institute on Aging (JHP, HWD, and RCA), and by NSF grants ANT-0944517 (HWD), PLR-1247510 (HWD), PLR-1444167 (HWD), and PLR-1543383 (JHP, HWD) from the Office/Division of Polar Programs. This is contribution number 350 from the Northeastern University Marine Science Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olga Voskoboinikova
    • 1
  • H. William DetrichIII
    • 2
  • R. Craig Albertson
    • 3
  • John H. Postlethwait
    • 4
  • Laura Ghigliotti
    • 4
  • Eva Pisano
    • 6
    • 5
  1. 1.Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of SciencesSaint PetersburgRussia
  2. 2.Department of Marine and Environmental SciencesMarine Science Center, Northeastern UniversityNahantUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  4. 4.Institute of NeuroscienceUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMAR) - CNRGenoaItaly
  6. 6.Department of Earth, Environment and Life Sciences (DISTAV), University of GenoaGenoaItaly

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