Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 87–98 | Cite as

Polar night ecology of a pelagic predator, the chaetognath Parasagitta elegans

  • Jordan J. Grigor
  • Ariane E. Marais
  • Stig Falk-Petersen
  • Øystein Varpe
Original Paper


The annual routines and seasonal ecology of herbivorous zooplankton species are relatively well known due to their tight coupling with their pulsed food source, the primary production. For higher trophic levels of plankton, these seasonal interactions are less well understood. Here, we study the mid-winter feeding of chaetognaths in high-Arctic fjord ecosystems. Chaetognaths are planktivorous predators which comprise high biomass in high-latitude seas. We investigated the common species Parasagitta elegans around the Svalbard archipelago (78–81°N) during the winters of 2012 and 2013. Our samples consisted of individuals (body lengths 9–55 mm) from three fjords, which were examined for gut contents (n = 903), stable isotopes, fatty acid composition, and maturity status (n = 352). About a quarter of the individuals contained gut contents, mainly lipid droplets and chitinous debris, whilst only 4 % contained identifiable prey, chiefly the copepods Calanus spp. and Metridia longa. The δ15N content of P. elegans, and its average trophic level of 2.9, confirmed its carnivorous position and its fatty acid profile [in particular its high levels of 20:1(n-9) and 22:1(n-11)] confirmed carnivory on Calanus. Observations of undeveloped gonads in many of the larger P. elegans, and the absence of small individuals <10 mm, suggested that reproduction had not started this early in the year. Its average feeding rate across fjords and years was 0.12 prey ind.−1 day−1, which is low compared to estimates of spring and summer feeding in high-latitude environments. Our findings suggest reduced feeding activity during winter and that predation by P. elegans had little impact on the mortality of copepods.


Predator–prey interactions Polar night Foraging Chaetognaths Arctic Zooplankton 



We are grateful to the crew and scientific staff on the two R/V Helmer Hanssen cruises for their help in sampling and especially Carl Ballantine. We wish to thank Clare Webster and Dr. Katarzyna Blachowiak-Samolyk for providing the zooplankton community data from Rijpfjorden in 2012, and Ida Helene Funderud Kallevik and Eike Stübner for MPS data from Isfjorden ISA in 2012. Thanks also to the Institute for Energy Technology for running the stable isotope analyses, UNILAB for running the fatty acid analyses, and Anette Wold and Janne Søreide for suggestions and comments on the fatty acid and isotope results. JG and AM received stipends from Québec-Océan, and gratefully acknowledge Québec-Océan and Professor Louis Fortier for their scientific support. This is a contribution towards the two projects Marine Night (226417) and Circa (214271), funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Supplementary material

300_2014_1577_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (146 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 146 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan J. Grigor
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ariane E. Marais
    • 3
  • Stig Falk-Petersen
    • 5
    • 6
  • Øystein Varpe
    • 4
    • 5
    • 7
  1. 1.Takuvik Joint International LaboratoryUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Québec-Océan, Université LavalQuébecCanada
  3. 3.Département de BiologieUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  4. 4.University Centre in SvalbardLongyearbyenNorway
  5. 5.Akvaplan-niva, Fram CentreTromsøNorway
  6. 6.Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and EconomicsUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  7. 7.Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram CentreTromsøNorway

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