Antarctic notothenioid fish: what are the future consequences of 'losses' and 'gains' acquired during long-term evolution at cold and stable temperatures?J Exp Biol. 2015 Jun; 218(Pt 12):1834-45.JE
Antarctic notothenioids dominate the fish fauna of the Southern Ocean. Evolution for millions of years at cold and stable temperatures has led to the acquisition of numerous biochemical traits that allow these fishes to thrive in sub-zero waters. The gain of antifreeze glycoproteins has afforded notothenioids the ability to avert freezing and survive at temperatures often hovering near the freezing point of seawater. Additionally, possession of cold-adapted proteins and membranes permits them to sustain appropriate metabolic rates at exceptionally low body temperatures. The notothenioid genome is also distinguished by the disappearance of traits in some species, losses that might prove costly in a warmer environment. Perhaps the best-illustrated example is the lack of expression of hemoglobin in white-blooded icefishes from the family Channichthyidae. Loss of key elements of the cellular stress response, notably the heat shock response, has also been observed. Along with their attainment of cold tolerance, notothenioids have developed an extreme stenothermy and many species perish at temperatures only a few degrees above their habitat temperatures. Thus, in light of today's rapidly changing climate, it is critical to evaluate how these extreme stenotherms will respond to rising ocean temperatures. It is conceivable that the remarkable cold specialization of notothenioids may ultimately leave them vulnerable to future thermal increases and threaten their fitness and survival. Within this context, our review provides a current summary of the biochemical losses and gains that are known for notothenioids and examines these cold-adapted traits with a focus on processes underlying thermal tolerance and acclimation capacity.