Trematomus nicolai is named after the zoologist, Nicolai Hanson, a member of the 1899 Borchgrevink expedition to Antarctica. The members of this expedition were the first explorers to spend any amount of time in the Antarctic studying marine life. Ongoing conservation work has restored their isolated and snow-damaged hut , the first permanent structure on the continent. This hut now stands as a silent memorial to Nicolai Hansen, the first human to be buried in Antarctica. Knowing that he did not have long to live, he requested that he be buried high atop the ridge overlooking Cape Adare and the sea. His gravesite, which is extremely hard to access, is marked by a small cross.
Members of the suborder notothenioidei are primarily confined to the Antarctic region where they dominate, accounting for approximately two-thirds of the fish species, and 90 percent of the individual fish in the area.
Trematomus nicolai can be considered a typical notothenioid. The environment occupied by the Antarctic notothenioids is one of the most harsh on the planet. The average yearly temperature in McMurdo Sound is -1.87 degrees Celsius, with the range varying from -1.4 and -2.15 degrees Celsius. Not only is it extremely cold, but it is also heavily ice laden. While some notothenioid species have developed the ability to live efficiently in middle-level waters by developing neutral buoyancy, the majority of species are bottom dwelling. Trematomus nicolai lives, feeds and reproduces near the sea floor. It is found down to 50 m - in fairly shallow water close to the surface ice. The ability to produce considerable quantities of antifreeze glycoproteins is an essential feature for survival under such life-threatening conditions.
Like the northern cods, Antarctic notothenioids produce antifreeze glycopeptides. Unlike the Atlantic cod, the notothenioids retain their antifreeze glycoproteins year-round.
Eastman,J.T. and A.L.DeVries. 1989 Antarctic Fishes. Chapter 4, pp 49-58. In: Life at the Edge - Readings from Scientific American. eds Gould, J.L. & C.G.Gould. W.H. Freeman and Co. NY