Arctic Facts: Bio-luminescent (glow in the dark) zooplankton during the arctic night

Arctic Facts: Bio-luminescent (glow in the dark) zooplankton during the arctic night

The Polar Night. Anywhere North of the polar circle line for a period of the year it’s over 24 hours of darkness. No sun. Culturally, communities living in places where there are periods of total darkness for days, week, months; are usually sleeping, spending a lot of time indoors and in a way, kind of regenerating for the polar day when it becomes 24 hour daylight and people are out ‘making hay while the sun shines’.

Like the communities of people, it was thought that marine productivity slows greatly during these times with no sunlight. My gosh, who wouldn’t get lazy and sleepy with all that darkness and end up watching endless Netflix shows and or knitting baby sweaters. That’s what I would do. Scientists in Norway studied the activity patterns of zooplankton during these polar nights. But not just any zooplankton; GLOW IN THE DARK ZOOPLANKTON.

Check this out!!!!

Photos courtesy of


By monitoring and quantifying their bioluminescent activity throughout a longitudinal study by season and time of day, it was determined that not only are various zooplankton active during these polar nights but their flashes are unique to them by species. As our optic technology continues to improve, use of certain (complicated devices I know nothing about nor could understand) forms of data collection may allow us to determine how these northern communities of zooplankton are changing in response to reductions in arctic ice, climate change etc.

Something I definitely did not know included in this paper noted some species of seabirds (black guillemot, kittiwake, fulmar, little auk and glaucous gull) are overwintering in Arctic fjords (Weslawski et al. 1991) -cited in this paper see below. These birds may use the visual glow of the zooplankton to locate their food, or perhaps as a proxy to finding fish that are attracted to their glowing zooplankton prey. The only thing missing from this paper was a couple good photos! I’m sure people would love to see these glowing zooplankton but none appeared in the manuscript.

2014. Polar Biol. Johnsen et al. Glowing in the dark: discriminating patterns of bioluminescence from different taxa during the Arctic polar night

For other interesting species that bioluminesce, see this new find; glowing sharks! This TED talk has been featured as a late. Click the link to watch the TED talk about glowing sharks.