The Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a type of cod icefish that is found in the cold, temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere, though in the Southern Ocean. It is only found on seamounts and continental shelves around sub-Antarctic islands. In the fishing industry and market, it is more commonly known as the Chilean sea bass, which supposedly originated as a marketing gimmick to make the fish sound more palatable.
Commercially caught toothfish average at 9-10 kg (20-22 lbs), though large adults can occasionally weigh about 200 kg (440 lbs) and can reach lengths of up to 2.3 m (7.5 ft). They are also thought to live up to fifty years. Because of their deep-water habitat, they are not extremely colorful and are usually dark brown or gray. The eyes and mouth are large, and the body is roughly bullet-shaped and narrow.
It has large pectoral fins but small pelvic fins. The dorsal and anal fins are very short; it has two dorsal fins, one directly opposite the pelvic fins and one extending from just past the midway point of the fish’s back all the way to its caudal peduncle. Its anal fin is shorter in height than the second dorsal fin, but extends about as far down the body. The caudal fin, or tail fin, is moderately-sized and slightly forked.
The Patagonian toothfish begins its life as a free-floating egg which hatches into a planktonic larva. It spends its early life in shallower water for about six or seven years, after which point it is closer to the appearance of a mature fish and begins migrating into deeper water.
Currently, there is no known sexual dimorphism in this fish.
The Patagonian toothfish lives in cold, deep oceanic waters, from 300 – 3,500 m (984 – 11,483 ft) around most sub-Antarctic islands as well as around the Prince Edward Islands of South Africa, and Heard Island and McDonald Island in Australia. Juveniles start out their lives in shallow water (less than 300 meters deep) and remain in the demersal zone, near the seafloor. As they age, they migrate deeper. They are generally found near seamounts and continental shelves.
It is not known if the Chilean sea bass was ever imported to Isla Sorna as food. As no tourist facilities existed on this island, it is unlikely.
This fish lives naturally in the southern Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It is also found widely throughout the Southern Ocean.
Behavior and Ecology
Living in deep, cold waters, the Patagonian toothfish is mostly unaffected by light cycles. Like most fish, it does not truly sleep.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Juveniles living in shallow waters are primarily piscivorous, feeding on smaller fish. As the animal ages, it migrates into deeper parts of the ocean and begins to take other food sources as well, such as small squid and crustaceans such as prawns. They are also known to scavenge dead animals. It feeds by biting down on a food item and swallowing it whole, as it cannot chew. It may break off pieces of a food item if it cannot eat it all at once.
Though it may school with its own kind, little is known about its social life.
Patagonian toothfish spawn in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months, typically at depths of around one thousand meters. The eggs and larvae are planktonic, and once they can swim, they will settle in the demersal zone of shallower water to mature.
It is unable to vocalize, like the majority of fish. Other details about its communication methods are poorly understood at this time.
The Patagonian toothfish makes up a large part of the diets of large predatory species in its habitat, including sperm whales, southern elephant seals, and colossal squid. It feeds on smaller fish and squid, as well as pelagic crustaceans.
Relationship to Humans
This fish is commonly targeted for food by humans and is sold in countries including Chile, the United States, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, France, Spain, Britain, Korea, and Japan. In the past, France sold some of its fishing rights to foreign fisheries, particularly to the Japanese. Overfishing has drastically impacted this species, leading to restrictions on where it may be fished and how much can be taken.
In cuisine, the fish is typically frozen at sea and then re-frozen for the market. Its fillets are shiny and resilient, with a white color and rich flavor. The meat is tender and moderately oily, coming apart in thick strips or flakes when eaten. Chilean sea bass is considered excellent for grilling, but can also be broiled, sautéed, or smoked, but is not suitable for frying because of its oil content.
The Patagonian toothfish is considered a fish to avoid by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch due to overfishing and high levels of mercury. In 2010, Greenpeace International added the toothfish to its seafood red list because the fish which were commonly sold in supermarkets had been acquired illegally and were thus dangerous for consumption.
InGen has historically imported Chilean sea bass to their Isla Nublar facilities to serve guests. This was notably the only meal served to actual guests of the original Jurassic Park, due to the 1993 incident closing down operations on the island during the endorsement tour. Chilean sea bass was also imported to Jurassic World, where it was served in Winston’s Steakhouse.