The effect of a lunar eclipse on the vertical migration behaviour of Meganyctiphanes norvegica (Crustacea: Euphausiacea) in the Ligurian Sea

Geraint A Tarling, F Buchholz, J B L Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


The vertical migration of a zooplankton community dominated by the euphausiid Meganyctiphanes norvegica was monitored between 16 and 23 September 1997 with a 153 kHz Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) and a MOCNESS net. The sampling period covered a phase in the lunar cycle when the rise of the moon (full moon) coincided initially with sunset and then became progressively later. On 16 September 1997, a lunar eclipse occurred 45 min after sunset, lasting for similar to 2 h. At dusk, the ADCP observed the upward vertical migration of two principal backscattering bands similar to 10 min apart with vertical velocities of up to 7 cm s(-1). After a period at the surface, a more diffuse band subsequently sank at a slower rate (1-2 cm s(-1)) to a depth of 75-100 m. Net samples showed that the earlier band consisted mainly of the pteropod Cavolinia inflexa, whilst the later band was mostly euphausiids, predominantly M.norvegica. This species was also the major constituent of the band that sank. The timing of upward migration was relatively constant over the sampling period, but there was an increasing delay of the secondary sinking until 21 September. This showed as a strong correlation between the onset of sinking and the time of moonrise. The lunar eclipse on 16 September perturbed this pattern, such that animals did not sink soon after their arrival at the surface, as occurred on 17 September, but remained at the surface until the end of the umbra This suggests that M.norvegica can perceive moonlight and that this influences vertical migration. Evidence that the behaviour is not solely mediated by this exogenous factor, however, is seen in the pattern that emerged after 21 September, when midnight sinking occurred at a relatively constant time after sunset and before moonrise. These observations support the hypothesis that moonlight is a Zeitgeber for an endogenous rhythm that synchronizes secondary sinking behaviour with the lunar cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1475-1488
Number of pages14
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Marine & Freshwater Biology
  • Oceanography


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of a lunar eclipse on the vertical migration behaviour of Meganyctiphanes norvegica (Crustacea: Euphausiacea) in the Ligurian Sea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this