Zooplankton Migrate By Moon Light During Arctic Winter

First Posted: Jan 11, 2016 09:22 AM EST

Researchers found that zooplankton keep busy during the dark and frigid Arctic winter. Since there is no presence of sunlight, these tiny marine creatures use the moon's light to migrate during the dark winter months, according to a recent study. This migration is also an attempt by zooplankton to avoid predators that hunt by moonlight.

"During the permanently dark and extremely cold Artic winter, [these] tiny marine creatures, like mythical werewolves, respond to moonlight by undergoing mass migrations," Kim Last, coauthor of the study from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, said in a news release.

The researchers observed the same behavior everywhere they looked, during the Arctic winter. They found that marine creatures moved their activities from a 24-hour solar day to a 24.8-hour lunar day. During the winter, zooplankton's vertical migrations occurred when the moon rises above the horizon. Zooplankton from surface waters sank to a depth of 50 meters every 29.5 days in the winter, which coincided with the full moon.

"These migrations are not rare or isolated to just a few places," Last said. "The occurrences of lunar migrations happen every winter at all sites, even under sea ice with snow cover on top."

The researchers claimed that zooplanktons' winter movements could become even more prevalent as climate change and ice melts continue increase. However, they are not sure what type of effects this migration could cause.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Current Biology.

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