Fabio Piccolin, Lisa Pitzschler, A. Biscontin
Oct 8, 2020
Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are high latitude pelagic organisms which play a key ecological role in the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. To synchronize their daily and seasonal life-traits with their highly rhythmic environment, krill rely on the implementation of rhythmic strategies which might be regulated by a circadian clock. A recent analysis of krill circadian transcriptome revealed that their clock might be characterized by an endogenous free-running period of about 12–15 h. Using krill exposed to simulated light/dark cycles (LD) and constant darkness (DD), we investigated the circadian regulation of krill diel vertical migration (DVM) and oxygen consumption, together with daily patterns of clock gene expression in brain and eyestalk tissue. In LD, we found clear 24 h rhythms of DVM and oxygen consumption, suggesting a synchronization with photoperiod. In DD, the DVM rhythm shifted to a 12 h period, while the peak of oxygen consumption displayed a temporal advance during the subjective light phase. This suggested that in free-running conditions the periodicity of these clock-regulated output functions might reflect the shortening of the endogenous period observed at the transcriptional level. Moreover, differences in the expression patterns of clock gene in brain and eyestalk, in LD and DD, suggested the presence in krill of a multiple oscillator system. Evidence of short periodicities in krill behavior and physiology further supports the hypothesis that a short endogenous period might represent a circadian adaption to cope with extreme seasonal photoperiodic variability at high latitude.