Sculpins of this family live in deep water, usually below 170 m. There are 24 known species in seven genera. These include, for instance, Abyssocottus korotneffi and Cottinella boulengeri which are among the deepest-living freshwater fish. Baikal is the deepest lake on Earth (1642 m), and sculpins occupy even its greatest dephths.
Evolution and systematics
Molecular studies based on mitochondrial DNA suggest that the Abyssocottidae along with other Lake Baikal cottoid fishes, now attributed to the likewise endemic Cottocomephoridae (Baikal sculpins) and Comephoridae (Baikal oilfish), together make a monophyletic group that has originated and diversified within the lake relative recently, since the Pliocene. The ancestors of this species flock comprising more than 30 species belonged to the widespread freshwater sculpin genus Cottus (in Cottidae). The Abyssocottidae itself appears as a natural group within this radiation, except that also the genus Batrachocottus should be included.
- Froese, R. and D. Pauly. (Eds.) Abyssocottidae. FishBase. 2011.
- Abyssocottidae. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
- Hunt, D. M., et al. (1997). Molecular evolution of the cottoid fish endemic to Lake Baikal deduced from nuclear DNA evidence. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 8(3), 415-22.
- Jakubowski, M. (1997). Morphometry of gill respiratory area in the Baikalian deep-water sculpins Abyssocottus korotneffi and Cottinella boulengeri (Abyssocottidae, Cottoidei). Journal of Morphology 233(2), 105-12.
- Tytti Kontula, Sergei V. Kirilchik, Risto Väinölä (2003) Endemic diversification of the monophyletic cottoid fish species flock in Lake Baikal explored with mtDNA sequencing Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 27, 1, 143–155.