Evidence for behavioral sensitivity to near-UV light in the deep-sea crustacean Systellaspis debilis

Research paper by T. M. Frank, E. A. Widder

Indexed on: 01 Jan '94Published on: 01 Jan '94Published in: Marine Biology


The role of UV light in the deep-sea environment has been discounted in the past, due to the assumptions that (1) there is insufficient UV light available for vision and, therefore (2) deep-sea organisms would not be sensitive to these wavelengths. A recent study that employed electrophysiological techniques on dark-captured deep-sea crustaceans demonstrated that several species of deep-sea crustaceans possess very high sensitivity to near-UV light. The current study was undertaken to determine if near-UV light would also elicit a behavioral response from these species. The species studied was Systellaspis debilis, an oplophorid shrimp whose daytime depth ranges from 600 to 700 m. A method for tethering shrimp was developed which allowed them to freely orient in response to changes in the ambient light field. Behavioral responses to changes in ambient light included changes in body tilt with respect to the horizontal plane, changes in swimming speed, and movement of the feeding appendages. These experiments, the first of their kind on a deep-sea organism, demonstrate that behaviorally, S. debilis is equally sensitive to very low intensities of blue-green and near-UV light.