Rhythms at the bottom of the deep sea: Cyclic current flow changes and melatonin patterns in two species of demersal fish

H. -J. Wagner, Kirsty Megan Kemp, U. Mattheus, I. G. Priede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Citations (Scopus)


We have studied physical and biological rhythms in the deep demersal habitat of the Northeastern Atlantic. Current velocity and direction changes occurred at intervals of 12.4 h, demonstrating that they could have an impact of tidal activity, and also showed indications of other seasonal changes. As an indicator of biological rhythms, we measured the content of pineal and retinal melatonin in the grenadier Coryphaenoides armatus and the deep-sea eel Synaphobranchus kaupii, and determined the spontaneous release of melatonin in long-term (52 h minimum) cultures of isolated pineal organs and retinae in S. kaupii. The results of the release experiments show statistically significant signs of synchronicity and periodicity suggesting the presence of an endogenous clock. The melatonin content data show large error bars typical of cross-sectional population studies. When the data are plotted according to a lunar cycle, taken as indication of a tidal rhythm, both species show peak values at the beginning of the lunar day and night and lower values during the second half of lunar day and night and during moonrise and moonset. Statistical analysis, however.. shows that the periodicity of the melatonin content is not significant. Taken together these observations strongly suggest that (1) biological rhythms are present in demersal fish, (2) the melatonin metabolism shows signs of periodicity, and (3) tidal currents may act as zeitgeber at the bottom of the deep sea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1944-1956
Number of pages13
JournalDeep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • tidal and seasonal current changes
  • pineal melatonin
  • retinal melatonin
  • Synaphobranchus kaupii
  • Coryphaenoides armatus
  • tidal currents
  • pineal organs
  • circadian rhythmicity
  • North-Atlantic
  • retina
  • light
  • photoreceptors
  • release
  • Biscay
  • slope


Dive into the research topics of 'Rhythms at the bottom of the deep sea: Cyclic current flow changes and melatonin patterns in two species of demersal fish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this