Open Access

The photophores of Meganyctiphanes norvegica (M. Sars) (Euphausiacea): mode of operation

  • Torsten Fregin and
  • Konrad Wiese
Helgoland Marine Research56:0104

Received: 10 August 2001

Accepted: 21 February 2002


The photophores of Meganyctiphanes were investigated with regard to the control of light production and with respect to their role in a hitherto unknown communication system using light flashes which became evident from observation of specialised signalling behaviour. To that purpose the light production was recorded during presentation of a range of stimuli delivered to the intact, tethered shrimp. Stimuli used were changes in ambient light, water turbulence, simulated predator approach and light flashes, as well as electric shocks and serotonin injections. Strong negative light gradients, exaggerating the natural sunset signal, reliably elicited light production, the peak of which lasted on average 2 min. In the late phase of this light production, low frequency water oscillations and turbulent flow (assumed intraspecific communication signals at close range) elicited transient increases in light production. Artificial light flashes presented to a group of shrimp evoked a signalling behaviour in which the animal points the light of its photophore beamers (positioned at the ventral side and normally directed downwards) for a fraction of a second at observers within the same depth level. The responses produced by the signalling behaviour indicate a fixed delay with respect to the triggering flash. Electric stimulation of the ventral nerve cord via implanted electrodes resulted in a strong light production with a latency of 160 ms. Injection of serotonin, resulting in haemolymph concentrations of 10–5 M and higher, initiated increasingly strong and increasingly long-lasting continuous light production. Implications for the control of the photophores are discussed.

Euphausiacea Meganyctiphanes Bioluminescence Serotonin Control of photophores