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what is the mesopelagic zone?
Tracey T. Sutton, Rosanna J. Milligan, in Encyclopedia of Ecology (Second Edition), 2019
Bioluminescence—The Production and Use of Living Light
Bioluminescence is a defining feature of most animals living in the deep-pelagic realm, and even of many living near or on the seafloor.
Over 90% of the metazoan species in the mesopelagic zone are bioluminescent.
A lesser percentage of bathypelagic organisms are bioluminescent, though nearly all members of deep-sea anglerfishes (Suborder Ceratioidei; Fig. 3A–C).
the most speciose fish taxon below 1000 m, produce light, as do most gelatinous taxa (especially medusoid cnidarians) and a wide variety of pelagic shrimps.
Near the seafloor bioluminescence is greatly reduced among vertebrates and invertebrates alike.
Bioluminescence among metazoans is either accomplished using luminescent bacteria cultures bound inside specialized light organs.
or by intrinsic light production from photophores.
In one case (e.g., female linophrynid anglerfishes), both systems are used.
Intrinsic bioluminescence in the deep sea is produced from the same general chemical reactions as that of a firefly—a substrate (luciferin) is exposed to an enzyme (luciferase).
which produces an unstable molecule that releases light energy to reachieve stability.
As previously mentioned, bioluminescence can be used to aid in camouflage in the water column, and also as a ‘luring’ mechanism (e.g., chin barbel of dragonfishes; Fig. 2D, Fig. 4D).
but also has many other uses. Some animals (especially oplophorid shrimps and tubeshoulder fishes) presumably use bioluminescent displays to startle or distract predators, allowing for escape.
Certain lanternfishes and dragonfishes use enlarged photophores around the eyes to illuminate prey in the water column.
Bioluminescence can also be used to locate potential mates for spawning, as evidenced by the sex-specific photophore patterns of many meso- and bathypelagic fishes.
This form of sexual selection and reproductive isolation may be the driver behind the exceptional diversity of the specific taxa that utilize this form of communication, the lanternfishes and dragonfishes.
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These animals include fish, shrimp, squid, snipe eels, jellyfish, and zooplankton.
Mesopelagic animals play an important role in the global carbon cycle and ocean’s food chain.
These organisms migrate in massive number to the oceans surface at dusk in search of food.
Carbon Flux Attenuation Within the Water Column
Fig. 2 presents a conceptual cartoon of particle cycling within ocean depth zones and the attenuation of the organic carbon flux with depth.
The euphotic zone (< 100 m depth) is the shallow, sunlit surface zone where light is available for primary production, the underlying driver of the carbon cycle.
Primary production fuels the secondary production of bacterial and animal biomass and particle generation. Recycling of primary organic materials by the surface ecosystem is very efficient.
PEeff has a large influence on the nutritional quality of the organic carbon exported to the mesopelagic zone.
Michael P. Seki, Jeffrey J. Polovina, in Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences (Third Edition), 2019
The Intermediate Trophic Levels
The animals occupying the intermediate trophic levels that link the primary producers and consumers with the top of the food web include all of the zooplankton and micronekton (smaller organisms 10–100 cm in length) large enough to swim in inertial conditions.
Gabriel Reygondeau, Daniel Dunn, in Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences (Third Edition), 2019
Current Environmental Biogeography of the Pelagic Ocean
Vertical Division of the Pelagic Compartment
Historically, the pelagic part of the global ocean has been vertically divided into several zones: epipelagic, mesopelagic, and bathypelagic (Pérès and Devèze, 1963). The epipelagic zone is usually distinguished from the mesopelagic at a depth of ~ 200 m, where models have shown that solar radiation is likely to be sufficiently low that photosynthesis effectively ceases (Sverdrup, 1953). ~ 1000 m. This choice mainly rests on observations of the vertical distribution of pelagic organisms (Pérès and Devèze, 1963).
Arved Staby, Anne G.V. Salvanes, in Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences (Third Edition), 2019