SF Artist Also Part of Team Making Scientific Discovery

Artist and fan Autun Purser is part of the team to discover a vast icefish breeding colony in the Antarctic. Video abstract and more details below at Science Direct.

Autun, who lives in Bremen, is a regular at SF conventions and his artwork has adorned book covers and fanzine covers.

Together with Laura Hehemann, Mia Wege, Florian Koch, Jenna Balaguer and many morr researchers, they published their paper on the most extensive fish nesting colony thus far discovered on Earth, at 500m depth below the Weddell Sea.


A breeding colony of notothenioid icefish (Neopagetopsis ionah, Nybelin 1947) of globally unprecedented extent has been discovered in the southern Weddell Sea, Antarctica. The colony was estimated to cover at least ?240 km2 of the eastern flank of the Filchner Trough, comprised of fish nests at a density of 0.26 nests per square meter, representing an estimated total of ?60 million active nests and associated fish biomass of >60,000 tonnes. The majority of nests were each occupied by 1 adult fish guarding 1,735 eggs (±433 SD). Bottom water temperatures measured across the nesting colony were up to 2°C warmer than the surrounding bottom waters, indicating a spatial correlation between the modified Warm Deep Water (mWDW) upflow onto the Weddell Shelf and the active nesting area. Historical and concurrently collected seal movement data indicate that this concentrated fish biomass may be utilized by predators such as Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii, Lesson 1826). Numerous degraded fish carcasses within and near the nesting colony suggest that, in death as well as life, these fish provide input for local food webs and influence local biogeochemical processing. To our knowledge, the area surveyed harbors the most spatially expansive continuous fish breeding colony discovered to date globally at any depth, as well as an exceptionally high Antarctic seafloor biomass. This discovery provides support for the establishment of a regional marine protected area in the Southern Ocean under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) umbrella.

Autun Purser says, “I called this site ‘metropole’ after the hotel in Roadside Picnic – I look at many of these sites like locations of real alien life… Lem knew what he was talking about with the difficulties in understanding unusual life!”

[Thanks to James Bacon for the story. Art used by permission.]

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