Ontogenetic shift in buoyancy and habitat in the Antarctic toothfish, Dissostichus mawsoni (Perciformes: Nototheniidae)

Thomas J. Near, Sabrina E. Russo, Christopher D. Jones, Arthur L. DeVries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Buoyancy measurements and depth of capture were taken on 70 individuals of Dissostichus mawsoni collected from the Southern Scotia Arc and McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, to examine the effect of age on buoyancy and habitat use. Standard lengths (SL) ranged from 10.4 to 138.0 cm. Juveniles were not buoyant (heavy in water), whereas adults were neutrally buoyant. The slope of the relationship between buoyancy and SL was significantly negative for juveniles (individuals less than 81 cm SL), but there was no significant relationship for adults (individuals greater than 81 cm SL). These results demonstrate an ontogenetic shift in buoyancy. For juveniles, depth of capture and SL had a significantly positive relationship. As individuals reach adulthood they achieve neutral buoyancy and appear to use deeper water habitats. This interpretation is supported by a significant positive correlation between buoyancy and depth of capture for juveniles. Changes in buoyancy with maturation of juveniles may also be associated with a shift in habitat use. Juveniles appear to exploit benthic habitats, whereas adults use the entire water column over deeper water. Given the differences in prey species available in these habitats and based on our results, we predict that diets of juveniles and adults should differ significantly. We also hypothesize that accumulation of lipid deposits from the diet during maturation of juveniles may account for the ontogenetic shift in buoyancy and allow neutral buoyancy to be achieved in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-128
Number of pages5
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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