Frozen Fish: Veterans of the Polar Vortex

This one is sent with love to our friends putting up with the dire cold being experienced in the middle of the United States right now from an absolutely freezing 75F (24C) day here at the offices of Deepblu. Come warm up with us!

It’s pretty nice out over here.

Hearing the news from friends and family back home is quite something to behold. Never before have there been such horrid temperatures. Even during my time at the Des Moines Register, in Iowa, I had no problem walking to work in a foot of snow. It kind of felt like the same fifteen minutes as always. After all, it is the Midwest, and you get used to the cold.

But then, moving to an island, most of what I think about is sunny days and oceans. That, however, is not on the minds of many, so let’s think about the freezing fish that are right there with you in the cold temperatures.

Lake Michigan Freezes over. Photo by Skadelik via CC BY-SA 4.0

When Lake Michigan freezes over not all life stops. Sure, we’d like it to slow down a bit on the surface, but as work and life and the buzzing of traffic continues throughout the cold months, so does life below the surface.

The fish of winter, like humans, like to hide out during the cold months. We do it with a blanket and Netflix, but they don’t have that option, or at least it hasn’t been observed, so they take to the bottom of the water. Sine they’re cold-blooded, their metabolism drops in cold water and they don’t need to hunt or worry about being hunted quite as frequently. While this doesn’t mean they’re settling in for a long winter’s nap, it does mean that there’s a lot less activity down there.

With a heart rate that is slow due to the cold, the fish of cold climates couldn’t move around more often if they wanted to, and this perfectly compliments their decreased needs.

A basking shark in warmer months. Photo: Chris Gotschalk

Until recently, it was actually believed that basking sharks hibernate. Since some sharks can pump oxygen through their gills while laying on the bottom of the ocean, this theory wasn’t too far off. However, this belief was founded on the simple science of “well, we don’t see them in the winter.” When this theory was looked into, it was discovered that some of the sharks had been caught in midwater trawls during winter months, meaning that they were still on the move, but not quite as much as in warmer months.

As for here, in sunny Taiwan, we’re on the go as always waiting to spread more information about travel, diving, and everything else that gets you going. We’re coming up for a week off due to Lunar New Year holiday, but we’ll be right back at you with more on the scene in a week! Dive on.

– Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor