So What the Heck is a Toothfish?

Photograph by Paul Cziko, supported by US-NSF through the DeVries-Cheng Lab at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Chamnpaign

With the announcement a couple of days ago that US supermarket chain Harris Teeter will no longer stock Antarctic Toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni), I thought I would devote today’s blog posting to finding out more about this dentally prominent denizen of the deep.  As is usual I won’t use any information on the first four pages of Google hits, since that is the stuff everyone already knows. So what can we find on page 5?

On we learn that while this fish is commonly known as the Antarctic Toothfish in English, it gets around by lots of other monikers like Antarktisk isfisk in Danish, Austromerluza antártica in Spanish and the rather romantic-sounding Marlonga-do-Antárctico in Portuguese.

Patrick Gaffney

Patrick Gaffney, of the University of Delaware, has published a paper on genetic differentiation in Antarctic Toothfish, by studying mitochondrial and single nucleotide polymorphisms.

From the National Sea Grant Law Centre: Toothfish hang out in the cold, deep waters of the southern hemisphere and can live to fifty years.  Most don’t make it that long as they are caught at just 10-12 years of age, weighing only 20lbs, when they could potentially grow to 250lbs.  The US consumes 15-20 % of the world trade in toothfish.

The European Bioinformatics Institute’s protein sequencing database provides the complete taxonomic lineage of the Antarctic Toothfish: Eukaryota › Metazoa › Chordata › Craniata › Vertebrata › Euteleostomi › Actinopterygii › Neopterygii › Teleostei › Euteleostei › Neoteleostei › Acanthomorpha › Acanthopterygii › Percomorpha › Perciformes › Notothenioidei › Nototheniidae › Dissostichus

And finally, we can admire this image taken by Alan R Light (thanks, Alan!), sourced from the Free Image Finder:

Antarctic Toothfish


One comment

  1. Great post, Susan! I really like your idea of finding facts on the fifth page of a Google search. Interesting topic too – All I really know about tooth-fish is that a number of ships have sunk while trying to fish for them!

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