Antarctic Fishes: Models for Climate Change and Human Disease

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations July 09, 2013 Belmont Media Center

H. William Detrich, III, Ph.D., Professor, Marine Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Department of Biology, Northeastern University; Principal Investigator for the United States Antarctic Program since 1984. Detrich Lab

The notothenioid icefishes of Antarctica are among the most interesting examples of evolution. When the Southern Ocean formed, the blood of the icefish evolved unique "antifreeze" properties that enabled them to survive the extreme cold of the Southern Ocean (temperatures of –1.8 to +1°C). In addition, the icefish skeletal structure changed, becoming much lighter in weight. These two adaptations ensured the survival of icefish while many other organisms became extinct at the time of the ocean temperature change. Dr. Detrich explains why the icefish were able to adapt while most other organisms in the Antarctic area became extinct when the Southern Ocean formed. He also discusses how blood and skeletal changes that were survival features for the icefish are features of disease --anemia and osteoporosis-- in humans.

Professor Detrich brings to his research a broad and deep background in biochemistry, molecular biology and genomics. His work is providing significant insights into both climate change biology and medicine. Dr. Detrich has spent more than twelve field seasons in Antarctica, at Palmer Station and McMurdo Station and he describes, in this lecture, the excitement of "research on the ice" and the climate changes in Antarctica he has witnessed over two decades.


2016 update: Antarctic Island Named for Northeastern Professor

Nov 2014 update on Dr. Detrich's work Antarctic Notothenioid Genome Sequenced

Antarctic Sun article: The Bloodless Icefishes: Strange Fauna May Reveal Clues about Anemias, Osteoporosis and Other Diseases This is a great article about the icefish and Dr. Detrich.

HHMI short video on Dr. Detrich's icefish work The Birth and Death of Genes

ICEFISH 2004 Cruise

Professor Detrich is the author of two textbooks on Polar biology:

Frontiers of Polar Biology in the Genomic Era. (The National Academies Press, 2003)

Zebrafish: 3rd Edition: Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics (3rd Edition). H. William Detrich, III, Monte Westerfield, Leonard I. Zon. (NY: American Society for Cell Biology, Methods in Cell Biology series. Elsevier, 2011).