Scientists who explored the sea near Greenland came to an unusual discovery. That is, looking deep into the iceberg, they discovered a fish with bright green antifreeze running through its veins.
Illustration/Photo: Kolbjornsrud at Shutterstock/Kjet
Young Areni poo (Liparis gibbus) contains the highest antifreeze protein ever recorded in fish.
Just as antifreeze helps control the temperature of a car’s engine in extreme conditions, some species of fish receive similar protection, especially those that live in cold habitats such as the polar waters of Greenland.
“Antifreeze proteins stick to the surface of small ice crystals and prevent them from growing into larger crystals,” said study co-author David Gruber:
“Fish from the North and South Poles evolved these proteins independently.”
Antifreeze proteins were first discovered in some Antarctic fish about 50 years ago. Unlike some cold-blooded reptiles and insects, fish cannot survive freezing their body fluids because it causes ice granules to form inside their cells, literally turning them into ice cream.
“The fact that these antifreeze proteins have evolved in so many different and unrelated fish species shows how critical they are to the survival of these organisms in extreme environments,” said Don Sparks, another study co-author.
“Pewee fish produce antifreeze proteins like any other protein in their body and then secrete them into the bloodstream,” Gruber said.
“Among ice floes, poo is one of the few fish that lived in crevasses. It’s amazing that such a small fish could survive in such a cold environment without freezing.”
Arctic fish also rarely show biofluorescence, meaning the ability to convert blue light into green, red, or dark light, because the poles are dark for long periods, especially in winter.
This behavior is commonly seen in warm-water swimming fish, and this is the first time an arctic fish has demonstrated this ability.
This amazing production of antifreeze helps the species adapt to life in subzero environments, the statement said. There is also the question of what will happen to whales if ocean temperatures rise as a result of global warming.
“Because of the rapid warming of Arctic waters, these cold-water-adapted species will have to compete with warm-water-adapted fish that can migrate north and survive greater geographic distances,” Sparks said.
“In the future, the production of antifreeze proteins may not provide an advantage in survival,” he concluded.
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