MEPS 156:33-41 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps156033

The bioluminescent field of the Atlantic Ocean

S. A. Piontkovski1, Yu. N. Tokarev1, E. P. Bitukov1, R. Williams2,*, D.ÝA. Kiefer3

1Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas, 335011 Sevastopol, Ukraine
2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, Plymouth PL1 3DH, United Kingdom
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0371, USA
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

Data from 20 yr (1970 to 1990) of expeditions by the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas, Ukraine, to the tropical Atlantic Ocean are summarised in the form of a macroscale contour map. The bioluminescent intensity of plankton in the upper 100 m layer was analysed from 2924 casts. Several zones of enhanced bioluminescence are shown from the annual averages (0 to 100 m), associated with major upwellings along the African coast and geostrophic currents forming the westward water mass transport. The macroscale trend of spatial distribution and the stochastic component of the bioluminescence were partitioned by analysis of the autocorrelation functions. General agreement between bioluminescence and zooplankton biomass distributions was noted on an ocean basin scale. The contribution of phyto- and zooplankton fractions to the formation of the integrated bioluminescence potential can vary significantly in the upper 100 m layer over regions within the tropical zone.


Plankton bioluminescence · Spatial heterogeneity · Atlantic Ocean


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