Antarctic silverfish

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Antarctic silverfish
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Nototheniidae
Genus: Pleuragramma
Boulenger, 1902
P. antarctica
Binomial name
Pleuragramma antarctica
Boulenger, 1902

The Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarctica), or Antarctic herring, is a species of marine ray-finned fish belonging to the family Nototheniidae, the notothens or cod icefishes. It is native to the Southern Ocean and the only truly pelagic fish in the waters near Antarctica.[2] It is a keystone species in the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.[3]

While widely distributed around the Antarctic, the species appears to have largely disappeared from the western side of the northern Antarctic Peninsula, based on a 2010 research cruise funded by the National Science Foundation under the US Antarctic Program.[4]


The Antarctic silverfish was first formally described in 1902 by the Belgian-born British zoologist George Albert Boulenger with the type locality given as Victoria Land in Antarctica.[5] It is the only species in the monotypic genus Pleuagramma which was also described by Boulenger.[6] Some authorities place this taxon in the subfamily Pleuragrammatinae,[7] but the 5th edition of Fishes of the World does not include subfamilies in the Nototheniidae.[8] The genus name is a compound of pleuro meaning "side" with a which means "without" and gramma meaning "line", an allusion to the absence of a lateral line.[9]


Antarctic silverfish usually grow to about 15 cm (5.9 in) in length, with a maximum of 25 cm (9.8 in). The maximum reported weight of this species is 200 g. Antarctic silverfish have a maximum reported age of 20 years. When alive, they are pink with a silver tint, but turn silver only after death. All the fins are pale. The dorsal side is slightly darker.[2] This Antarctic marine fish is one of several in the region that produce antifreeze glycopeptides as an adaptation against the extreme cold of Antarctic waters.[10]


The postlarvae, 8–17 mm (0.31–0.67 in) in size, feed on eggs of calanoids (Calanoida), sea snails Limacina and tintinnids (Tintinnida).[11] The postlarvae live at depths of up to 135 metres (443 ft).[2] Juveniles feed on copepods (Copepoda), mostly on Oncaea curvata and can be found at depths of 50 to 400 m (160–1,310 ft),[11][2] while adults can be found at depths 0–728 m (0–2,388 ft).[2] As their size increases, so does the size of their prey items. Mature females may spawn for the first time at 7–9 years of age.[2]

Antarctic silverfish are the most abundant pelagic fish species in the High Antarctic shelf waters of the Southern Ocean[12] and are important high-caloric prey species for high-trophic animals such as Adelie penguins, marine flying birds and Weddell seals.[13]


  1. ^ Gon, O.; Vacchi, M. (2010). "Pleuragramma antarcticum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2010: e.T154785A4633007. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T154785A4633007.en. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2009). "Pleuragramma antarctica" in FishBase. February 2009 version.
  3. ^ Bottaro M., Oliveri D., Ghigliotti L., Pisano E., Ferrando S. & Vacchi M. (2009). "Born among the ice: first morphological observations on two developmental stages of the Antarctic silverfish Pleuragramma antarcticum, a key species of the Southern Ocean". Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 19(2); 249-259. doi:10.1007/s11160-009-9106-5.
  4. ^ "Climate change may be to blame for disappearance of Antarctic silverfish". The Antarctic Sun.
  5. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Species in the genus Pleuragramma". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  6. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Nototheniidae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  7. ^ H.H. Dewitt; P.C. Heemstra; and O. Gon (1990). "Nototheniidae Notothens". In O. Gon and P.C. Heemstra (eds.). Fishes of the Southern Ocean. South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. ISBN 9780868102115.
  8. ^ J. S. Nelson; T. C. Grande; M. V. H. Wilson (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Wiley. p. 465. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6. Archived from the original on 2019-04-08. Retrieved 2021-09-19.
  9. ^ Christopher Scharpf & Kenneth J. Lazara, eds. (12 April 2021). "Order Perciformes: Suborder Notothenoididei: Families Bovichtidae, Pseaudaphritidae, Elegopinidae, Nototheniidae, Harpagiferidae, Artedidraconidae, Bathydraconidae, Channichthyidae and Percophidae". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  10. ^ A. P. Wohrmann (1995). "Antifreeze glycopeptides in the high-Antarctic Silverfish Pleurogramma antarcticum (Notothenioidei)". Comp. Biochem. Physiol. C. 111 (1): 121–9. doi:10.1016/0742-8413(95)00007-T. PMID 7656179.
  11. ^ a b Granata, A.; Zagami, G.; Vacchi, M.; Guglielmo, L. (2009). "Summer and spring trophic niche of larval and juvenile Pleuragramma antarcticum in the Western Ross Sea, Antarctica". Polar Biology. 32 (3): 369–382. doi:10.1007/s00300-008-0551-8. S2CID 8212285.
  12. ^ Carlig, E., Di Blasi, D., Ghigliotti, L. et al. Diversified feeding strategies of Pleuragramma antarctica (Nototheniidae) in the Southern Ocean. Polar Biol 42, 2045–2054 (2019).
  13. ^ Cecilia O'Leary (2016). "The many faced monster of a rapidly changing Antarctic ecosystem and its influence on Antarctic silverfish". Habiata Section. American Fisheries Society.