Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 1471-1478

First online:

Benthic bioluminescence in the bathyal North East Atlantic: luminescent responses of Vargula norvegica (Ostracoda: Myodocopida) to predation by the deep-water eel (Synaphobranchus kaupii)

  • A. HegerAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen Email author 
  • , N. J. KingAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen
  • , B. D. WighamAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen
  • , A. J. JamiesonAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen
  • , P. M. BagleyAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen
  • , L. AllanAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen
  • , O. PfannkucheAffiliated withLeibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften (IFM-GEOMAR)
  • , I. G. PriedeAffiliated withOceanlab, University of Aberdeen

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Using two autonomous lander systems, one equipped with a high sensitivity intensified silicon intensifier target (ISIT) video camera and a second with a 4.1-megapixel digital stills camera, observations were made of bioluminescent emissions and fauna attracted to artificial food falls at ca. 1,000 m depth in the carbonate mound provinces of the Porcupine Seabight and Rockall Bank, North East Atlantic. On the Galway coral mound (Belgica Mound Province), seven bioluminescent events per hour were observed, whereas on an area of sediment at the base of the Kiel Mount on the Rockall Bank 133 events per hour were observed. This increase in bioluminescent activity was associated with the presence of the deep water eels Synaphobranchus kaupii, and the ostracods, Vargula norvegica. Captured ostracods luminesced readily in response to mechanical stimulation and were also observed emitting a luminous secretion. We hypothesise that V. norvegica, attracted to bait, luminesce as a defence response against the predatory activity of S. kaupii that compete for bait but also feed on the ostracods. Benthic bioluminescence in the carbonate mound provinces was not directly linked to the presence of corals.