Diel Physiological Rhythms in a Tropical Oceanic Copepod
The daily vertical migration (DMV) of zooplankton and fish across hundreds of meters between shallow and deep waters is a predominant pattern in pelagic ecosystems. This migration has consequences for biogeochemical cycling as it moves a substantial portion of fixed carbon and nitrogen (an estimated 15 to 40% of the total global organic export) from the surface directly to depth where it feeds the midwater food chain and sequesters nutrients away from atmospheric mixing. Estimates and predictions of these fluxes are, however, poorly understood at present. New observations have shown that one source of uncertainty is due to the assumption that metabolic rates and processes do not vary over the course of the day, except based on changes in temperature and oxygen availability. Rates are, however, also driven by differences in feeding, swimming behavior, and underlying circadian cycles. The objective of this project is to improve the ability of scientists to understand and predict zooplankton contributions to the movement of carbon and nitrogen in the ocean by detailing daily changes in physiological processes of these organisms. By producing a set of respiration and excretion measurements over a daily time series, paired with simultaneously collected gene and protein expression patterns for an abundant vertically migratory species, the investigators will provide unprecedented and predictive insight into how changes in the environment affect the contribution of zooplankton to biogeochemical fluxes. The sampling design of the project will advance discovery and understanding by providing hands-on training opportunities to at least two undergraduate researchers. The project will broaden dissemination of the research via development of an educational module, focusing on rhythms in the ocean. The module will initially be piloted with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) summer camp students and then disseminated through the BIOS Explorer program, the Teacher Resources Page on the BIOS website, and published in a peer-reviewed educational journal.
This project will characterize the metabolic consequences of daily physiological rhythms and DVM for a model zooplankton species, the abundant subtropical copepod Pleuromamma xiphias. Flux processes (oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, production of ammonium and fecal pellet production) will be interrogated using directed experiments testing the effects of temperature, feeding and circadian cycle. Circadian cycling will further be examined using transcriptomic and proteomic profiling. These experiments will be related to field samples taken at 6-h intervals over the course of the diel migration using an integrated suite of molecular and organismal metrics. Combined organismal, transcriptomic and proteomic profiles will provide an understanding of which metabolic pathways and associated flux products vary in relation to particular environmental variables (food, light cycle, temperature). Diel variation in metabolic rates will also be assessed across seasons and species using other important migratory groups (pteropod, euphausiid, and another copepod). The metabolic data will then be contextualized with abundance estimates from archived depth-stratified tows to allow scaling to community-level patterns and will be used to improve calculations of zooplankton contribution to particulate organic carbon, nitrogen and respiratory active flux. The results of this study will both improve our flux estimates and provide predictive insight into how various environmental variables influence the underlying physiological pathways generating carbon and nitrogen flux.