The morphology and composition of the three otoliths of the Antarctic ice-fish Chionodraco hamatus were studied by scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction. The composition of the sagitta, lapillus and asteriscus protein matrices was also analysed by sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, western blots and confocal laser scanning microscopy to reveal the presence of and to localize the calcium-binding proteins calmodulin, calbindin and S-100. Morphological results indicated that the otoliths in this ice-fish were similar to those of Trematomus bernacchii, a red-blooded Antarctic species [B. Avallone et al. (2003) J. Submicrosc. Cytol. Pathol.35, 69–76], but rather different from those of other teleosts. These two Antarctic species possessed a completely vateritic asteriscus, whereas their sagitta and lapillus were made mostly of aragonite. Parallel analysis of protein patterns in C. hamatus and T. bernacchii revealed that the sagitta significantly differed from the lapillus and asteriscus in both species. The sagitta did not contain the S-100 protein and showed calmodulin and calbindin located in discontinuous or incremental zones, respectively. These results demonstrate that the otoliths of C. hamatus and T. bernacchii share more resemblances than differences and support the idea of a common origin of these species
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