Warming in the region of the Western Antarctic Peninsula is occurring at an unprecedented rate, which may threaten the survival of Antarctic notothenioid fishes. Herein, we review studies characterizing thermal tolerance and cardiac performance in notothenioids – a group that includes both red-blooded species and the white-blooded, haemoglobinless icefishes – as well as the relevant biochemistry associated with cardiac failure during an acute temperature ramp. Because icefishes do not feed in captivity, making long-term acclimation studies unfeasible, we focus only on the responses of red-blooded notothenioids to warm acclimation. With acute warming, hearts of the white-blooded icefish Chaenocephalus aceratus display persistent arrhythmia at a lower temperature (8°C) compared with those of the red-blooded Notothenia coriiceps (14°C). When compared with the icefish, the enhanced cardiac performance of N. coriiceps during warming is associated with greater aerobic capacity, higher ATP levels, less oxidative damage and enhanced membrane integrity. Cardiac performance can be improved in N. coriiceps with warm acclimation to 5°C for 6–9 weeks, accompanied by an increase in the temperature at which cardiac failure occurs. Also, both cardiac mitochondrial and microsomal membranes are remodelled in response to warm acclimation in N. coriiceps, displaying homeoviscous adaptation. Overall, cardiac performance in N. coriiceps is malleable and resilient to warming, yet thermal tolerance and plasticity vary among different species of notothenioid fishes; disruptions to the Antarctic ecosystem driven by climate warming and other anthropogenic activities endanger the survival of notothenioids, warranting greater protection afforded by an expansion of marine protected areas.

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