Blue pigmentation of neustonic copepods benefits exploitation of a prey-rich niche at the air-sea boundary

Rahlff, Janina; Ribas-Ribas, Mariana; Brown, Scott; Hamizah Mustaffa, Nur Ili; Renz, Jasmin; Peck, Myron A.; Bird, Kimberley; Cunliffe, Michael; Melkonian, Katharina; Zappa, Christopher J.

The sea-surface microlayer (SML) at the air-sea interface is a distinct, under-studied habitat compared to the subsurface and copepods, important components of ocean food webs, have developed key adaptations to exploit this niche. By using automated SML sampling, high-throughput sequencing and unmanned aerial vehicles, we report on the distribution and abundance of pontellid copepods in relation to the unique biophysicochemical signature of the SML. We found copepods in the SML even during high exposure to sun-derived ultraviolet radiation and their abundance was significantly correlated to increased algal biomass. We additionally investigated the significance of the pontellids’ blue pigmentation and found that the reflectance peak of the blue pigment matched the water-leaving spectral radiance of the ocean surface. This feature could reduce high visibility at the air-sea boundary and potentially provide camouflage of copepods from their predators.


  • thumnail for Rahlff_2018_Scientific_Reports.pdf Rahlff_2018_Scientific_Reports.pdf application/pdf 339 KB Download File
  • thumnail for Rahlff_2018_Scientific_Reports_Supplementary_material.pdf Rahlff_2018_Scientific_Reports_Supplementary_material.pdf application/pdf 1.11 MB Download File

Also Published In

Scientific Reports

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
January 12, 2022