Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Many zooplankton and fishes vertically migrate on a diel cycle to avoid predation, moving from their daytime residence in darker, deep waters to prey-rich surface waters to feed at dusk and returning to depth before dawn. Vertical migrations also occur in response to other processes that modify local light intensity, such as storms, eclipses, and full moons. We observed rapid, high-frequency migrations, spanning up to 60 m, of a diel vertically migrating acoustic
scattering layer with a daytime depth of 300 m in the subpolar Northeastern Pacific Ocean. The depth of the layer was significantly correlated, with an ∼5-min lag, to cloud-driven variability in surface photosynthetically available radiation. A model of isolume-following swimming behavior reproduces the observed layer depth and suggests that the high-frequency migration is a phototactic response to absolute light level. Overall, the cumulative distance traveled per day in response to clouds was at least 36% of the round-trip diel migration distance. This previously undescribed phenomenon has implications for the metabolic requirements of migrating animals while at depth and highlights the powerful evolutionaryadaptation for visual predator avoidance.
vertical migration, zooplankton, phototaxis, cloud
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Omand, Melissa M.; Steinberg, Deborah K.; and Stamieszkin, Karen, Cloud shadows drive vertical migrations of deep-dwelling marine life (2020). PNAS, 118(32), e2022977118.