Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 8, pp 1637–1649 | Cite as

Abundant bioluminescent sources of low-light intensity in the deep Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean

  • Jessica CraigEmail author
  • Imants G. Priede
  • Jacopo Aguzzi
  • Joan B. Company
  • Alan J. Jamieson
Original Paper


Light plays a critical role in the functioning of the marine environment. In the dark ocean, bioluminescent organisms are the only visually relevant sources of light. Cameras of different sensitivities were used to compare the density of pelagic bioluminescent sources (BL) of different light intensities at a regional scale: the image-intensified charge-coupled device for deep-sea research (ICDeep), an image-intensified silicon intensifier target (ISIT) camera and a silicon intensifier target (SIT) camera. Pelagic ICDeep values were higher than ISIT measurements by a mean factor of 7.6 in the Mediterranean Sea and 3.5 in the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic ISIT values were higher than SIT values by a mean factor of 4.5. Standardising bioluminescence measurements to the near-seafloor (0–400 m above bottom) layer, BLNSF, a logarithmic decrease with depth was observed from three independent datasets (slopes not significantly different): ISIT (Atlantic, Mediterranean), ICDeep (Mediterranean). Intercepts from ICDeep measurements were higher than ISIT measurements by a factor of 4.4. From these trends, a conversion factor to calculate benthopelagic plankton biomass from near-seafloor BLNSF density was derived. Calibration of the ICDeep enabled calculation of the minimum intensity of source visible to that camera. BLNSF sources of low-light intensity (≥1.4 × 10−7 W m−2) outnumber fourfold sources of greater intensity (>ca. 10−6 W m−2 (λpeak = 470 nm). This reveals a high abundance of low-light bioluminescent sources in the marine environment, with mean pelagic densities of 33.15 sources m−3 (Atlantic) and 6.79 sources m−3 (Mediterranean) between 500 and 1500 m depth.


Light Output North Atlantic Ocean Zooplankton Biomass Benthic Boundary Layer Camera Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



J.C. was funded by UK NERC studentship (NE/F012020/1). J.A. was funded by Ramon y Cajal program (MICINN). We also thank G.P. Gasparini (leader RV Urania cruise), H. Kontoyiannis (leader RV Aegaeo cruises), Dr. F. Sardá (leader RV Sarmiento de Gamboa cruise) and colleagues for facilitating on board work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights statement

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

227_2015_2700_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (556 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 556 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Craig
    • 1
    Email author
  • Imants G. Priede
    • 1
  • Jacopo Aguzzi
    • 2
  • Joan B. Company
    • 2
  • Alan J. Jamieson
    • 1
  1. 1.OceanlabUniversity of AberdeenNewburghUK
  2. 2.Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain

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