The nototheniid Pleuragramma antarcticum (Boulenger, 1902), is the dominant pelagic fish in waters of the continental shelf in High Antarctic regions. Larvae and juveniles of this species comprise the majority of ichthyoplankton at many locations around Antarctica including the Weddell Sea and the western Ross Sea, where it may amount to 98% of the ichthyoplankton. Its life cycle has been the subject of a number of studies but spawning and embryological development are still uncertain. Eggs with embryos and newly hatched larvae of P. antarcticum were collected in November 2002 near the Italian Antarctic station at Terra Nova Bay through holes drilled in the sea ice. Eggs and yolk-sac larvae were floating among the platelet ice below the solid cap of congelation ice. Eggs were 2.2–2.5 mm in diameter and contained embryos at an advanced stage of development. Hatching occurred from mid-November onwards, and newly hatched larvae averaged 9.3 mm SL. This paper provides the detailed description of embryos and newly hatched larvae in terms of pigmentation pattern and morphometric characteristics, thus allowing a significant advance in our understanding of the early life history of P. antarcticum in the Ross Sea, and extending the knowledge of the life cycle of this key Antarctic species.
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