'Fish Tales from the Southern Ocean' lecture Nov. 20
Bruce Sidell of the University of Maine will discuss Antarctic icefishes on Thursday afternoon.
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8:19 a.m., Nov. 17, 2008----The Antarctic icefishes are designed for life in frigid waters. The family of fishes lacks hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen from the gills to the rest of the body and gives blood its red pigment. The animals do just fine without it though -- their habitat's low temperatures help oxygen dissolve in blood easier.

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This white-blooded family of fish will be the focus of the latest offering in the University of Delaware's William S. Carlson International Polar Year Events.

Bruce Sidell, professor of marine sciences at the University of Maine, will deliver a seminar on the topic on Thursday, Nov. 20, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Cannon Laboratory Room 202 and broadcast via ITV to the Newark campus in Robinson Hall Room 206.

In his lecture, “Fish Tales from the Southern Ocean: The Curious Consequences of Life in the Icebox,” Sidell will discuss how the history of climate, oceanography, and ecology has influenced the evolution of the Antarctic icefishes. He also will describe the cardiovascular features that allow the animals to deliver adequate supplies of oxygen to their tissues and summarize his laboratory's recent research on what factors shape the animals' unique systems.

Research on the family of fishes, which live in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, can have implications for scientists studying evolution, cardiovascular health, and climate change.

“A strong case can be made that the success of hemoglobinless icefishes is perilously dependent upon the extreme environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean,” Sidell said, “and that continued survival of this group would be jeopardized by elevation in sea temperatures resulting from global climate change.”

For the last 20 years, Sidell has worked under funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) at the U.S. research base Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula and on research vessels along the peninsula and elsewhere in the Antarctic. He also serves on NSF's Antarctic Research Vessel Oversight Committee. An expert on fishes living in chronically cold temperatures, he has published approximately 90 articles in scientific journals.

The William S. Carlson International Polar Year celebrates UD's president from 1946-1950, who also was an Arctic explorer, and UD's significant polar research in the world's fourth International Polar Year. The global scientific and education program began in March 2007 and concludes in March 2009.

The free lecture is sponsored by the College of Marine and Earth Studies and the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Article by Elizabeth Boyle