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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 217:1-14 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps217001

Diel horizontal migration of the Hawaiian mesopelagic boundary community observed acoustically

Kelly J. Benoit-Bird1,*, Whitlow W. L. Au1, Russell E. Brainard2, Marc O. Lammers1

1Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and Department of Zoology, University of Hawaii, PO Box 1106, Kailua, Hawaii 96734, USA
2Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, Honolulu Laboratory, 2570 Dole Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

ABSTRACT: The mesopelagic boundary community off the leeward coasts of 2 Hawaiian Islands, Oahu and Hawaii, was investigated with an echosounder modified to read directly into a laptop computer. Acoustic sampling was conducted over a total distance of 12.6 km off the Waianae coast of Oahu and 46.3 km off the Kona coast of Hawaii. The density of organisms was determined using echo energy integration, and relative abundance was determined in a way analogous to catch-per-unit-effort. The vertical range of mesopelagic organisms expanded as the mesopelagic layer rose and then compressed as it descended. The vertical range of the layer off the Kona coast was larger than that off the Waianae coast, possibly because of the greater bottom depth off Kona. Near midnight, the boundary community 3 km from the shoreline was split into 2 distinct layers, one beginning approximately 25 m from the surface and one beginning approximately 90 m from the surface. The density and the relative abundance of mesopelagic organisms were consistently higher off the Waianae coast than the Kona coast. However, the density of organisms observed in both locations was high, reaching a maximum of 1800 organisms m-3 off Waianae and 700 organisms m-3 off Kona. The maximum relative abundance off Waianae neared 100%, while off Kona it never exceeded 70%. In both locations, organisms were found within 1 km of shore, in waters much shallower than their assumed daytime habitat. The temporal patterns of relative abundance and density of organisms in waters closest to the shores of each island resembled a bell curve, with a peak in relative abundance and density around midnight. In waters further from shore, the temporal patterns in relative abundance and density had a bimodal distribution, with peaks around both 21:00 and 03:00 h. These patterns in relative abundance and density are significantly affected by the distance of the sampling location from the shoreline, but not by the depth of the sampling site. The data suggest that the organisms of the mesopelagic boundary community undergo a diel horizontal migration that is reciprocal, 1.8 km in 2 h toward shore and then the same distance in approximately the same amount of time away from shore, in addition to their well-established vertical migration. The temporal patterns of the horizontal component of the migration are predictable and are conserved between days, phases of the moon, seasons, and islands.

KEY WORDS: Mesopelagic boundary community · Diel horizontal migration · Diel vertical migration · Acoustic sampling · Hawaiian Islands

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