Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 75–85 | Cite as

Moonlit swimming: vertical distributions of macrozooplankton and nekton during the polar night

  • Clare N. WebsterEmail author
  • Øystein Varpe
  • Stig Falk-Petersen
  • Jørgen Berge
  • Eike Stübner
  • Andrew S. Brierley
Original Paper


Macrozooplankton (e.g. krill, amphipods and jellyfish) and nekton (e.g. decapod shrimp, squid and fish) are integral parts of pelagic ecosystems, but knowledge of their vertical distributions and migrations during winter at high latitudes is lacking. This study provides the quantification of macrozooplankton and nekton distributions during the polar night in a partially ice-covered high Arctic fjord. In January 2012, mid-water trawls and MIK nets were deployed in Rijpfjorden, Svalbard (80° 18′ N, 22° 15′ E) at three depths (20, 75 and 200 m) day and night. Simultaneously, acoustic volume backscattering strength (a measure of biomass) was recorded using 18-, 38- and 120-kHz echosounders. We observed that the majority of nekton were below the thermocline (>100 m) day and night. A diverse fish community (10 species present) dominated the nekton biomass closely followed by shrimp and squid. Macrozooplankton, mostly large Calanus spp. copepods and gelatinous zooplankton, were found throughout the water column, but the majority were above the thermocline day and night. A general additive model with depth, time and moonlight predicted biomass to increase with depth for both macrozooplankton (over the top 100 m) and nekton, but revealed no patterns in biomass over time. The model also indicated that full moon presence increased depth of macrozooplankton backscatter. Our findings suggest a diverse and to some degree active pelagic community during the polar night, and provide some support for the hypothesis that moonlight induces downward vertical migrations of macrozooplankton.


Arctic Moon Zooplankton Fish Winter Pelagic ecology 



Special thanks go to the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAS) for hosting and training CW in Arctic zooplankton identification. For sorting and analysis of pelagic trawls, we thank all scientists onboard especially Dr Angelina Kraft, Dr Jasmine Nahrgang, Jordan Grigor and Vasily Bednenko. This project was supported by Norwegian Research Council through the projects CircA (Project Number 214271/F20) and Marine Night (Project Number 226417). We are indebted to the captain and crew of the R/V Helmer Hanssen for their help and assistance during the field campaign. We thank the three anonymous reviewers for their invaluable suggestions and comments.

Supplementary material

300_2013_1422_MOESM1_ESM.doc (36 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clare N. Webster
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Øystein Varpe
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  • Stig Falk-Petersen
    • 3
    • 5
  • Jørgen Berge
    • 4
    • 5
  • Eike Stübner
    • 4
  • Andrew S. Brierley
    • 1
  1. 1.Scottish Oceans InstituteUniversity of St AndrewsSt. AndrewsUK
  2. 2.Tvärminne Zoological StationUniversity of HelsinkiHankoFinland
  3. 3.Fram CentreAkvaplan-nivaTromsöNorway
  4. 4.University Centre in SvalbardLongyearbyenNorway
  5. 5.Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and EconomicsUniversity of TromsøTromsöNorway
  6. 6.Fram CentreNorwegian Polar InstituteTromsöNorway

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