Also known as the catfish, striped wolffish, and ocean wolffish, the Atlantic wolffish can be found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, these fish inhabit waters from Iceland, the Faroes, Spitsbergen, the White Sea, and the Murman coast, south to the British Isles and the western coast of France. In the western North Atlantic they can be found from west Greenland, across to southern Labrador and all along the Atlantic coast of Canada to the USA, and have been reported as far south as New Jersey.
The Atlantic wolffish is a solitary species, commonly inhabiting deep water along slopes, and not generally given to long migrations. While wolffish may live alone for much of the time, spring inshore migrations in preparation for summer spawning have been reported in a variety of areas eg. Nova Scotia, Newfoundland (conversely, in the Barents Sea, wolffish have been found close to shore at depths of 1-2 m in early spring and concentrated in deeper water during summer). Once inshore, mature Atlantic wolffish have been observed at depths of 5-15 m, where they can be found in holes under large boulders, swimming in open water, or resting on the bottom. One theory states that immature Atlantic wolffish (less than 50cm) must inhabit water deeper than 30 m and do not enter shallow inshore waters until sexually mature. There seems to be variation in depth, temperature and bottom type preferred. In the Newfoundland area, Atlantic wolffish occur over hard clay bottoms, in depths from 100-350 m and at bottom temperatures of -0.4 C to 4.0 C. Trawling experiments off west Greenland have shown Atlantic wolffish to be most commonly caught at depths less than l00 m and in a wide temperature range from -1.0 C to 10 C.
Atlantic wolffish feed primarily on bottom dwelling invertebrates, such as echinoderms, molluscs, and crustaceans. The external skeletons of the prey are usually crushed, and, in addition to food, wolffish stomachs are frequently found to contain sand, silt, and stones. In spite of this rather unappetizing diet, wolffish can attain considerable size (maximum recorded size in Canadian waters = 124 cm). However, as with all fish species, their rate of growth is dependent on a variety of environmental factors. In sub-arctic waters, average length at age 5 years = 24 cm, at age 10 = 49 cm, and at age 15 = 70 cm.
Other than the fact that these fish produce Type III antifreeze, little is known about the pattern of antifreeze production in Atlantic Wolffish.
Scott,G.K., P.H.Hayes, G.L.Fletcher, and P.L.Davies. 1988. Wolffish antifreeze protein genes are primarily organized as tandem repeats that each contain two genes in inverted orientation. Molecular and Cellular Biology. 8: 3670-3675.