Questions for ‘World’s biggest colony of nesting fish lives beneath Antarctic ice’

image of three Jonah’s icefish around two circular nests

Jonah’s icefish (Neopagetopsis ionah) create circular nests with hard rock centers, where the fish can lay more than 1,700 eggs.

Alfred Wegener Institute, PS124 OFOBS team

To accompany World’s biggest colony of nesting fish lives beneath Antarctic ice


Before Reading:

  1. Set a timer for one minute. Then list all the species you can that make nests. How many did you get? Examine your list. Circle all the birds. If you don’t have any birds on your list, then come up with one now. Then find all the insects. Draw a star beside those. (Hint: Think about hives.) If necessary, add an insect to your list. Now search your list for any fish. In your opinion, how likely is it that some fish make nests?
  2. Macaroni penguins are best recognized by their vibrant yellow head crests. These birds form huge colonies during the breeding season and build their nests close together. These communities can have thousands of penguins. What are some advantages these penguins might get by nesting together?

During Reading:

  1. How deep (in meters) below the sea ice are these nesting fish located? In square kilometers, how big is this fish community?
  2. Other than icefish, what are two other fish species that also make nests?
  3. What color is icefish blood? What does icefish blood contain that helps the fish survive in extreme cold?
  4. What type of lake fish makes nests that “are one of the closest comparisons” to the newfound icefish nest community? Is the icefish nesting community bigger or smaller than those of other fish?
  5. Why did these icefish nests remind Thomas Desvignes of bird nests?
  6. Provide two theories for why these icefish may gather so closely to breed.
  7. What is Autun Purser watching for at the colony site with his two seafloor cameras? What question does he want to be answered?

After Reading:

  1. According to Desvignes, what aspect of this discovery “would make the species very vulnerable” to extinction? Why does this discovery provide a new argument for protecting the Weddell Sea? Consider other life forms, such as plants and animals. Come up with one other species that may be more vulnerable to extinction for the same reasons as icefish.