The polar night in the Arctic is characterized by up to six months of darkness, low temperatures and limited food availability. Biological data on species composition and abundance during this period are scarce due to the logistical challenges posed when sampling these regions. Here, we characterize the plankton community composition during the polar night using water samplers and zooplankton net samples (50, 64, 200, 1500 μm), supplemented by acoustics (ADCPs, 300 kHz), to address a previously unresolved question–which species of zooplankton perform diel vertical migration during the polar night? The protist community (smallest plankton fraction) was mainly represented by ciliates (Strombidiida). In the larger zooplankton fractions (50, 64, 200 μm) the species composition was represented primarily by copepod nauplii and small copepods (e.g., Microcalanus spp., Pseudocalanus spp. and Oithona similis). In the largest zooplankton fraction (>1500 μm), the euphausiid, Thysanoessa inermis, was the most abundant species followed by the chaetognath Parasagitta elegans. Classical DVM was not observed throughout the darkest parts of the polar night (November–mid-January), although, subtle vertical migration patterns were detected in the acoustic data. With the occurrence of a more distinct day–night cycle (i.e., end of January), acoustical DVM signals were observed, paralleled by a classical DVM pattern in February in the largest fractions of zooplankton net samples. We suggest that Thysanoessa spp. are main responsible for the acoustical migration patterns throughout the polar night, although, chaetognaths and copepods may be co-responsible.
- Vertical migration
- Polar night