You might expect that little happens in the Arctic Ocean during the cold and dark winter. But that just isn't so, according to researchers who have sampled the activities of many different species during three consecutive winters in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Their findings are published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on September 24.
"This once and for all changes the way we think of marine ecosystems during the polar night," says Jørgen Berge of UiT The Arctic University of Norway and the University Centre in Svalbard.
"The dark polar night is not a period without any biological activity [as had been assumed]. Concealed behind the curtain of darkness is a world of activity, beauty, and ecosystem importance."
Berge says the researchers were inspired to look more closely at what happens during the polar night based on a chance encounter they had on a small boat in the middle of a Svalbard fjord.
"Above us was a starry, winter night and below us were countless blue-green 'stars' in the deep" produced by bioluminescent organisms, Berge says. "The beauty of it was stunning, and the fact that so many organisms were producing light was a strong indication that the system was not in a resting mode."