Elevated Ambient Light and Temperature Constrain Light Perception in Arctic Krill

Jonathan Cohen1, Berge Jørgen2, Mark A Moline1 and Geir Johnsen3, (1)University of Delaware, Lewes, DE, United States, (2)UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway, (3)Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Krill play an important role in polar ecosystems as grazers on phytoplankton and microzooplankton, as well as in the subsequent transfer of this energy to higher trophic levels including fish, birds, and marine mammals. In the Barents Sea ecosystem, krill are a particularly important food source sustaining the region's extensive fisheries production. Climate variability over the past half-century, including advection of warmer North Atlantic water and boreal euphausiid taxa, has impacted both krill and fish populations in the Barents Sea, as well as dependencies between them. To better understand these dependencies in the context of climate warming, sea ice loss, and increased winter/spring light levels, we examined temperature- and light-acclimation effects on the visual physiology of krill, which utilize vision for both capturing prey and avoiding predators. Here we show that both elevated temperature and light acclimation lead to changes in visual function in krill Thysanoessa inermis collected from Kongsfjord (Svalbard) in late winter. We found that krill eyes were faster, but less sensitive, in warmer and brighter conditions. Predicting the ecological implications of such physiological shifts is challenging. When coupled with models of the underwater light field and visual perception, these findings suggest that krill in the Barents Sea may be more effective at evading fish predators under future climate scenarios with increased North Atlantic water influence. However, shoaling of krill during the daytime phase of their diel vertical migration could oppose this and favor visual predation on krill by fish.