A species of fish that lives in Antarctic waters may hold clues to climate change and lead to advances in heart medicine. Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are investigating the behaviour and physiology of the Antarctic Cod (Notothenia coriiceps) which became isolated from its warmer water cousins around 30 million years ago when the Antarctic circumpolar current was formed.
The olive-coloured fish has broad head and a narrow body. Whilst scientists know that it has ‘antifreeze’ in its blood and maintains a very low heart rate of less than 10 beats per minute, almost nothing is known about its behaviour or how it evolved to live in Antarcticas extreme environment.
Discovering how the species may cope with predicted environmental change could help stock management or conservation of biodiversity within the Southern Ocean. In addition, it is possible that this research could lead to advances in medicine, especially relating to the problems experienced by human hearts when made to beat slowly (e.g. during surgery involving heart-lung bypass) or fail to beat fast enough (e.g. as a result of hypothermia in water or exposure on a mountain).
Linda Capper | alfa
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