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Bioluminescence spectra of shallow and deep-sea gelatinous zooplankton: ctenophores, medusae and siphonophores

Abstract

We have examined the variability and potential adaptive significance of the wavelengths of light produced by gelatinous zooplankton. Bioluminescence spectra were measured from 100 species of planktonic cnidarians and ctenophores collected between 1 and 3500 m depth. Species averages of maximal wavelengths for all groups ranged from 440 to 506 nm. Ctenophores (41 species) had characteristically longer wavelengths than medusae (34 species), and the wavelengths from siphonophores (25 species) had a bimodal distribution across species. Four species each produced two different wavelengths of light, and in the siphonophore Abylopsistetragona these differences were associated with specific body regions. Light from deep-dwelling species had significantly shorter wavelengths than light from shallow species in both ctenophores (p = 0.010) and medusae (p = 0.009). Although light production in these organisms was limited to the blue-green wavelengths, it appears that within this range, colors are well-adapted to the particular environment which the species inhabit.

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Received: 27 April 1998 / Accepted: 27 October 1998

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Haddock, S., Case, J. Bioluminescence spectra of shallow and deep-sea gelatinous zooplankton: ctenophores, medusae and siphonophores. Marine Biology 133, 571–582 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s002270050497

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Keywords

  • Color
  • Short Wavelength
  • Body Region
  • Longe Wavelength
  • Bimodal Distribution