Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 51–65 | Cite as

Quantifying the light sensitivity of Calanus spp. during the polar night: potential for orchestrated migrations conducted by ambient light from the sun, moon, or aurora borealis?

  • Anna S. BåtnesEmail author
  • Cecilie Miljeteig
  • Jørgen Berge
  • Michael Greenacre
  • Geir Johnsen
Original Paper


Recent studies have shown that the biological activity during the Arctic polar night is higher than previously thought. Zooplankton perform diel vertical migration during the dark period/winter, with the calanoid copepods Calanus spp. being one of the main taxa assumed to contribute to the observed diel vertical migration. We investigated the sensitivity of field-collected Calanus spp. to irradiance by keeping individuals in an aquarium and exposing them to gradually increasing irradiance in white, blue, green, and red wavebands, recording their phototactic response with a near-infrared-sensitive video camera. Experiments were performed with the two oldest copepodite stages as well as adult males and females. The copepods were negatively phototactic, and the lowest irradiance eliciting a significant phototactic response was of the order of 10−8–10−6 μmol photons m−2 s−1 for white, green, and blue wavebands, whereas the comparative irradiance for red wavebands was up to three orders of magnitudes higher. The different copepod developmental stages displayed different sensitivities to irradiance. During the darkest part of the polar night, the lowest irradiance for significant response corresponded to 0.0005–0.5 % of the ambient surface irradiance, depending on light source. Accordingly, Calanus spp. may respond to irradiance from the night sky down to 70–80 m, moonlight to 120–170 m, and aurora borealis down to 80–120 m depth. The high sensitivity to blue and green light may explain the Calanus’ ability to perform diel vertical migration during the polar night when intensity and diurnal variation of ambient irradiance is low.


Phototaxis Light response Spectral sensitivity Copepods Arctic 



Funding for the Ph.D. Project of A. S. Båtnes was provided by the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology (SO funding), NTNU, and the field work was funded by the Arctic Field Grant (Svalbard Science Forum, Norwegian Polar institute). The Ph.D. Project of C. Miljeteig was funded by VISTA—a basic research programme funded by Statoil, conducted in close collaboration with The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Project No. 6156). J. Berge is supported by the Norwegian Research Council project Circa (Project No. 214271). M. Greenacre’s research is partially supported by the BBVA Foundation in Madrid and grant MTM2012-37195 of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Competitiveness.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3523 kb)
300_2013_1415_MOESM2_ESM.tif (3.1 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (TIFF 3174 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna S. Båtnes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Cecilie Miljeteig
    • 1
  • Jørgen Berge
    • 3
    • 2
  • Michael Greenacre
    • 3
    • 4
  • Geir Johnsen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.The University Centre in SvalbardLongyearbyenNorway
  3. 3.Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and EconomicsThe Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  4. 4.Department of Economics and Business, Barcelona Graduate School of EconomicsUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain

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