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Marine Biology 98, 441-446 (1988) Marine

==Biology9 Springer-Vedag 1988

Spectral composition of bioluminescence of epipelagic organisms

from the Sargasso Sea
M . I . L a t z * , T . M . F r a n k and J . F . C a s e

Department of Biological Sciences and Marine Science Institute, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara,
California 93106, USA

Abstract sure emission spectra in detail, it is necessary to collect or-

ganisms by conventional methods and make shipboard
The spectral characteristics of single identified epipelagic measurements. Although these measurements have suc-
sources of bioluminescence from the western Sargasso Sea cessfully been made on several hundred species of organ-
were measured with an optical multichannet analyzer isms from numerous locations (Herring 1983, Widder et al.
(OMA) system during the April, 1985, Biowatt cruise. The 1983, Widder, Latz, Frank and Case unpublished data),
emission spectra of specimens representing 45 species from very few measurements have been made on organisms
8 phyla were measured. Peak bioluminescence emissions from the Sargasso Sea (Swift et al. 1977, Biggley et al.
typically occurred between 440 and 500 nm, in the blue re- 1981). The present survey of the emission spectra of organ-
gion of the visible spectrum. Three exceptions involved isms from this region includes measurements on zooplank-
emission in the green, yellow, and red spectral regions. In- ton known to be important contributors to epipelagic bio-
traspecific variability in spectra was noted in several luminescence (Swift et al. 1983), as well as organisms such
species. One shrimp species exhibited two modes of light as gelatinous plankton whose contribution to biolumi-
emission, each with different emission spectra. Other cases nescence measurements have not previously been accu-
involved dynamic color shifts of 10 to 14 nm; the source of rately assessed.
the spectral variability is unknown, but may involve optical Measurements of the spectral properties of biolumi-
filtering or differences in the color of luminescence from nescence were performed with an optical multichannel
multiple sites of light emission. Measurements from in- analyzer (OMA) system (Widder et al. 1983), as part of the
dependent samples of unsorted plankton revealed different Biowatt I study of the optical properties of the upper water
spectral distributions. This suggests that the spectral column of the western Sargasso Sea (Marra et al. in prep-
emissions of bioluminescence in the upper water column aration). The ultimate goal was to assess the effect of bio-
will vary, based on species assemblage. logical sources of light on the spectral properties of the
ambient light field. The results of this study confirm pre-
vious studies that spectral peaks of bioluminescence are
generally restricted to the blue region of the visible spec-
Introduction trum, and suggest that the spectral properties of stimulated
bioluminescence measured in situ will vary within this
The presence of bioluminescent organisms in the oceans is range, according to species composition.
readily detected by bathyphotometers that measure stimu-
lated bioluminescence (e.g. Swift et al. 1983, Lapota and
Losee 1984, Ondercin and Fuechsel 1986). Bathyphotom- Materials and methods
eters measure the temporal and quantal characteristics of
bioluminescence but, except for a few instances (Kampa Plankton collections were made in the region 25-35~
and Boden 1956, Losee and Lapota 1981), do not measure 40~ in the Sargasso Sea during the April, 1985, Biowatt
the spectral properties of stimulated light. In order to mea- cruise. Gelatinous plankton and the smaller crustaceans
were obtained by night-time net tows of 15 min duration at
* Present address: Chesapeake Bay Institute, The Johns Hopkins depths of 0 to 125 m, using 1.0 and 0.5 m diam nets with
University, 4800 Atwell Road, Shady Side, Maryland 20764, 333 ~tm mesh. Larger animals were collected with a Tucker
USA trawl (2 m 2 mouth opening) operated at depths of 50 to
442 M.I. Latz et al.: Spectral composition of bioluminescence

Table 1. Spectral characteristics of bioluminescence measured during 1985 Biowatt cruise. Spectral emissions characterized by wavelength
of maximum emission (max.) full bandwidth at half maximum intensity (FWHM), and signal to noise ratio (S:N). Values represent
averaged spectrum for all measurements of a given species with same calibration curve

Identification max. FWHM S:N Identification max. FWHM S:N

(nm) (nm) (nm) (nm)

Unsorted plankton Mollusca

Mixed plankton (333 #m)" 459 66 50 Phyllirrhoe sp. 475 89 44
(25 ktm) 474 40 66 Leachia lemur 500,473 u 84 55
(25/~m) 478 56 t8 514,489 b 68 65
(25/~m) 484, 472 b 62 24 Leachia lemur 458,485 b 74 58
Leachia lemur 449,459 b 86 40
Pyroteuthis margaritifera 477 54 24
Rhaphidozoum acuferum 4 5 8 _ _ 4(2) ~ 87• 28+_ l l
Pyroteuthis margaritifera 475 62 8l
A crosphaera murrayana 443 ~(; 36
485,470 ~ 42 12
Stphonosphaera tenera 450 78 34
Myxosphaera coerulea 453• (2) c 84• 37• 1 Annelida
Collosphaera huxleyi 456 79 31 Tomopteris nisseni 565 55 92
Collosphaera sp.d 452 77 35
Collosphaera sp.d 445 87 71 Crustacea
Collosphaera sp.e 443 75 63 Conchoecia imbricata 474 94 47
Conchoecia secernenda 481 95 24
Scina sp. 444 89 38
Chrysaora hysosceles 478 95 67
Pleuromamma xiphias 492, 472 b 77 117
Bougainvillia earolinensis 452 74 38
Pleuromamma abdominalis 486, 465 b 77 78
Pelagia noetiluea 469 94 32
Gaussiaprinceps 479, 489 b 73 38
A eginea citrea 459 73 149
Pegantha clara 460_+2 (2) ~ 71• 103• Nematoscelis microps 463 43 77
Pandea sp. nov. 466 80 94
Nematobrachionflexipes 453 32 32
Hippopodius hippopus 447 80 112
Euphausia brevis 462 43 64
Agalma okeni 444 70 94
Euphausia gibboides 467 53 42
Oplophorus spinosus 457 f 69 133
Amphiearyon ernesti 487 47 144
Amphicaryon aeaula 487 65 78
Systellaspis debilis 460 f 65 73
467 g 48 38
Diphyes dispar 464 92 25
Rosaeea larva 488+ 1 (2) c 55• 1 90• 10 Tunicata
Ctenophora Pyrosoma atlanticum 493, 471 b 101 39
Cestum veneris 490 84 72
Tinerfe laetae 486 85 57 Pisces
Beroe cueumis 479, 496 b 94 52 Ultrastomias mirabilis 477 73 325
Beroe ovata 478 86 51 Hygophum hygomi 448 76 58
Bolinopsis sp. 488 80 28 Stomias brevibarbatus 689 _h 105

Mesh size of plankton net used for collection

b Bimodal spectrum; values correspond to main and second peaks, respectively
c Mean • standard deviation of mean, with number of measurements in parentheses, for emission spectra with different calibration
d Toroid colony morphology
Spherical colony morphology
Luminescent secretion
Phot~phore emission
Spectrum extended beyond OMA range

300 m. O n several occasions, a 2 m diam net with 333 tzm tails of OMA operation and calibration have previously
mesh was used concurrently with the trawl. Organisms been described (Widder et al. 1983). All spectra from a
were immediately sorted, a n d m a i n t a i n e d in darkness at given species with the same calibration curve were com-
25 ~ until use within 6 h after collection. Specimens were b i n e d into a single averaged spectrum.
individually preserved in 4% formalin for later identifica- Specimens were either placed in filtered seawater in
tion. quartz glassware and mechanically stimulated, or were
Bioluminescence spectra were measured with an supported between a pair of tungsten electrodes a n d stimu-
E G & G Princeton Applied Research Model 1215 optical lated with trains of t0 V, 5 ms electrical pulses delivered at
multichannel analyzer (OMA) utilizing a linear array de- 20 Hz by a Grass stimulator. Bioluminescence was focused
tector consisting o f 700 intensified silicon photodiodes. onto a 1 or 2 m m entrance slit of the polychromator by
Characterized by high sensitivity and resolution, and ca- quartz collection-optics (Widder et al. 1983). In some cases,
pable of essentially instantaneous light collection across a bioluminescence was induced or enhanced by the addition
350 n m spectral window, this system is able to accurately of 10 .4 M 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) or 4% hy-
register spectra from transient as well as weak sources, De- drogen peroxide.