Southern Ocean fishes


 Fishes of the Southern Ocean (FSO; 2nd edition)

Since its publication in 1990 Fishes of the Southern Ocean (FSO) has been a major reference work for Southern Ocean researchers bringing together knowledge of the systematics and biology of Southern Ocean fishes gained from worldwide research up to the end of the 1980s.

Much new information on the systematics and biology of Southern Ocean fishes, particularly the suborder Notothenioidei, has been gained from post-1990 research. As a result the fish fauna of the Southern Ocean has increased by about 20%. Consequently the accuracy of the identification keys of FSO is decreasing and the potential for the misidentification of taxa is increasing; existing family accounts lack new important information and sometimes even include dated, misleading information.

A large body of work on the molecular systematics of notothenioid fishes has been published since 1990 debating the evolution and relationships of these fishes.  In view of all these developments the time has come to revise the book.  This revision will once again be a collaborative work, with many of the original authors contributing once again.  Watch this space for reports on progress.

Instructions for authors


Geography: since we are staying with the CCAMLR definition of the Southern Ocean (i.e. same as used in the first FSO, see p. 70, 2nd paragraph), species reported on from the Prince Edward, Kerguelen and Crozet islands must be included in our revision.

Taxonomic section: revise the information in the original family account as required (e.g. add taxa found in the SO after 1990), and add a paragraph on early life history stages (see below) to all the species accounts.  Treatment of species not yet found in the SO, but highly likely to be there, is optional but encouraged.  Such species should be included in the species identification key and listed as a potential occurrence under the relevant genus.

Introductory chapters: Add/change information as necessary to make these chapters as current as possible.

Style and layout

Authors of introductory chapters are free to structure their contribution as they see fit (but read to the end of this paragraph).  Taxonomists, please follow the family and species accounts, and the ‘Introduction to the systematics section’ (p. 70) of the first FSO.  If you don’t have a copy of the first FSO, here is an example of a family account and the Introduction.  Please limit text formatting to italics and bold.  Please do not indent new paragraphs.  Place figure legends at the end of the introductory chapter or family account.  If you are using a scan of an introductory chapter or of a family account from the first FSO, copy the text (leave out figure legends) into a new Word document and use the latter for your work.  Please note that the scanner doesn’t always pick up the correct characters, particularly special ones, so keep an eye for potential spelling errors.

In the species accounts, please include a new subheading named ‘Early life history’.  Please insert this new subheading between the species Diagnosis and Otoliths sections.  If you have nothing to contribute here, please state: ‘Unknown’, or ‘No information available’.  If information is available, please provide diagnostic characters that are not found in the adults and comments that can assist with identification (e.g. ontogenetic changes).  Continue with all other ELH information you wish to provide, but it need not be very detailed, just the take-home message with reference to relevant literature.  Photos or drawings of ELH stages should be included when available.

Identification keys

Keys are a critical component of the book and must be as accurate as possible.  Remember that users often try to identify a single specimen and have nothing to compare with.  In such situations character descriptions such as ‘1a snout short’ and ‘1b snout longer’ are not helpful.  Please include proportions with such characters.

In the first FSO, keys in several family accounts (see example account) are aided by illustrations of character states.  They make identification so much easier, especially for, but not only, the non-taxonomist user.  You are encouraged to include photos/drawings of difficult characters as much as you can.  See also Glossary below.


Please follow the old otolith section (see example family account) in preparing new otolith descriptions.  For assistance with descriptions and images please communicate with Malcolm Smale ( who has taken over the introductory chapter on otoliths.  Images may also be available from Werner Schwarzhans ( and Antoni Lombarte ( at their discretion.

Include a 1 mm scale bar in otolith illustrations/photos, or indicate the size of the bar in the figure legend.

Distribution maps

I am inclined toward using a Google map as the base map because it shows submarine topography and it is easy to work with.  Maps will be prepared here at SAIAB.  Authors of family accounts: please include a list of coordinates at the end of each species account for individual distributional records that will appear as dots on the map and/or a set of coordinates representing a geographical range that will appear as a coloured/shaded area.  Given that such data are not always available for old records, for new taxa please provide the closest approximation you can come up with; for the existing species accounts, confirm your approval of their old maps and we will copy the records/shaded areas as accurately as we can to the new map.


This includes photos, videos (for the electronic version of the book) and drawings.  The species and character illustrations figured in the first FSO are available and can be used for the revised species accounts.  Nonetheless, colour photos and/or videos are preferred, particularly underwater ones, when available (see examples), as they depict the living species.  In the electronic version of the book we could possibly show more than one species illustration per species account, so photos of preserved specimens in good condition would be considered as well.  The editorial team will consider any photo you submit with the guiding principle that higher resolution images (300 dpi or higher, saved as LZW-compressed TIFF files at the highest quality) can be used in both the electronic and print version, but lower resolution images, provided the subject is clearly identifiable, will be limited to the electronic version.  Please scan drawings at 600 dpi or higher and save them in the same way photos are.

Copyrights: if you want to include in your contribution artwork used in published papers/book chapters you authored, please obtain permission to use them for the new FSO from the copyrights owner and submit it with your contribution.  For artwork you wish to use, but you were not an author of, please provide the publisher/author name and contact details, and the editorial team will try to obtain permission from the copyrights owner.


Add references at the end of your introductory chapter or family accounts and limit them to those that are not already in the first FSO; for those who don’t have the book, click here to see its Bibliography.  Examples of references:

BOHLKE JE, CHAPLIN CG. 1968. Fishes of the Bahamas and adjacent tropical waters. Winnewood, Pennsylvania, Livingston Publishing Company.

BURCHETT MS. 1983a. Abundance of the nearshore fish population at South Georgia (Antarctica) sampled by trammel net. British Antarctic Survey Bulletin 61: 39-43.

BURCHETT MS, SAYERS PJ, NORTH AW, WHITE MG. 1983. Some biological aspects of the nearshore fish populations at South Georgia. British Antarctic Survey Bulletin 59: 63-74.

BUTSKAYA NA, FALEEVA TI. 1987. Seasonal changes in the gonads and fecundity of Antarctic fishes Trematomus bernacchii, Trematomus hansoni and Pagothenia borchgrevinki (Nototheniidae). Voprosy Ikhtiologii 27(1): 114-123. [In Russian; English translation in Journal of Ichthyology 27(3): 27-36.]

COHEN DM. 1986. Bathylagidae. In: Smith MM & Heemstra PC (eds), Smiths' sea fishes. Johannesburg, Mac­millan South Africa, p. 216.


This is another important part of the revised book.  In the electronic version of the book’s technical terms and reference citations will be linked to the Glossary and the Bibliography, respectively, allowing users to access term definitions and/or references at a click of the mouse.  Please list new terms and their definitions at the end of an introductory chapter or a family account under a subheading named Glossary.  The links to the Glossary and Bibliography will be created by the editorial team.  Those who don’t have the first FSO can view the Glossary here.

Living document

Last but not least, my vision for the book is to make it a living document, like the Catalog of Fishes and FishBase.  Authors should be able to connect to and update their contributions as new information becomes available and new versions will be uploaded periodically.  Since most of us are at the end of our career, or retired, authors are encouraged to enlist younger colleagues as co-authors who would be able to continue updating information into the future.  If you do so, please forward the name and contact details of your co-author/s to me in due course.

I am looking forward for working with all of you and I’m sure we can produce a product that will be as useful to the user community as the first FSO has been, but also the kind of book future authors would want to emulate.

Fishes of the Southern Ocean / edited by O. Gon and P.C. Heemstra. Grahamstown : J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, 1990 slide0014_image007.jpg

Cynomacrurus piriei.
Monochrome scientific illustration
by Dave Voorvelt, p. 201.




Systematics and antifreeze attributes of sub-antarctic notothenioid fishes

Much new knowledge has been gained since the publication of Fishes of the Southern Ocean, but little was done during this period on the systematics of the notothenioid fishes in the sub-Antarctic region, particularly the species that also occur south of the Antarctic Polar Front.

All notothenioid families, except the Artedidraconidae, have wide-ranging species distributed north and south of the Antarctic Polar Front. Most of these species are in the family Nototheniidae. Taxonomic splitting of these species, due to small morphological differences between seemingly isolated populations, started in the mid-1900s, creating a long-lasting controversy regarding the taxonomic status of the resulting nominal taxa. We approached this problem from the molecular genetics and physiological points of view and collaborated with Elie Poulin of the University of Santiago, Chile. Population genetics research done so far indicated that the splitting of species inhabiting the low-Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands, albeit in different ocean sectors, has no merit.

Antarctic notothenioid fishes are known to possess a family of proteins that act as biological antifreeze enabling the survival of these fishes in sub-zero water temperature and in the presence of ice. Relatively little is known on the antifreeze attributes of their sub-Antarctic relatives that have no need for such protection, but may still carry the genes for antifreeze proteins. The first antifreeze project was completed and Tshoanelo Moloi received her PhD out of that research. She is now a lecturer at University of KwaZulu-Natal. In this research we have collaboreated with C.-H. Christina Cheng of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamgaign, USA. The research demonstrated that reduction/loss of the antifreeze trait in these fishes occurred several times during evolution.



Catching Paranotothenia magellanica at Marion Island (2009) Taking blood from Paranotothenia magellanica at Marion Island (2009) 
Transvaal Cove, Marion Island, mid-1980s Getting ready for a dive at Ship's Cove, Marion Island, mid-1980s Subadult of Paranotothenia magellanica at Transvaal Cove, Marion Island, mid-1980s