, Volume 87, Issue 5, pp 473-483

Is vertical migration in Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) influenced by an underlying circadian rhythm?

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Abstract

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a keystone species in the southern ocean ecosystem where it is the main consumer of phytoplankton and constitutes the main food item of many higher predators. Both food and predators are most abundant at the surface, thus krill hide in the depth of the ocean during the day and migrate to the upper layers at night, to feed at a time when the predatory risk is lowest. Although the functional significance of this diel vertical migration (DVM) is clear and its modulation by environmental factors has been described, the involvement of an endogenous circadian clock in this behaviour is as yet not fully resolved. We have analysed the circadian behaviour of Euphausia superba in a laboratory setting and here we present the first description of locomotor activity rhythms for this species. Our results are in agreement with the hypothesis that the circadian clock plays a key role in DVM. They also suggest that the interplay between food availability, social cues and the light:dark cycle acts as the predominant Zeitgeber for DVM in this species.