Wellcome Sanger Institute
Sanger Institute Science Collaboration

Antarctic notothenioids fish genomes project

The notothenioids (suborder: Notothenioidei) constitute one of the best characterized marine adaptive radiations. They consist of over 130 species, and are the dominant fish group of the Southern Ocean. The establishment of the group is linked to the formation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which led to a drop of the water temperature and eradication of other temperate fish faune. Survival of of the notothenioids in sub-zero water temperatures was aided by the appearance of the antifreeze glycoproteins (afgps) which enable freeze avoidance. Additionally, derived species of the Channichthyidae family (icefish) are lacking functional erythrocytes, making them the only vertebrate without blood. They are a remarkable example of adaptive radiation and an emerging model for the study of cold adaptations.
Bista et al. 2022. Fig.1 | The Notothenioidei suborder, all 24 target species, and representative geographic distributions of PacBio sequenced species.

At the Wellcome Sanger Institute we are generating genome assemblies for 24 species across the notothenioid radiation. We are generating PacBio reference assemblies for five species, including the non-Antarctic Cottoperca gobio (synonym Cottoperca trigloides), and four cryonotothenioids; Trematomus bernachii, Harpagifer antarcticus, Gymnodraco acuticeps, and Pseudochaenichtys georgianus. Also, we are also generating draft reference assemblies for 20 more species.

This work is funded by the Wellcome Trust.


Data usage:

  • These assemblies are provided by the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Cambridge University team of the Sanger Vertebrate Genomes Project
  • The data under this project are made available subject to the Wellcome Sanger Institute Data Sharing policy (https://www.sanger.ac.uk/about/research-policies/open-access-science/)

Sanger people

Photo of Dr Richard Durbin

Dr Richard Durbin

Associate Faculty

Photo of Eric Miska

Eric Miska

Associate Faculty/Group Leader

External partners and funders


John Postlethwait group

Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon


William Detrich group

Northeastern University, College of Science

Professor Marine and Environmental Sciences, Marine Science Center


Walter Salzburger group

University of Basel 


Melody Clark

Genetics Leader, British Antarctic Survey


Chi -Hing Christina Cheng

School of Integrative, Biology University of Illinois