Subsurface Eddy Facilitates Retention of Simulated Diel Vertical Migrators in a Biological Hotspot

K. Hudson, M. J. Oliver, J. Kohut, J. H. Cohen, M. S. Dinniman, J. M. Klinck, C. S. Reiss, G. R. Cutter, H. Statscewich, K. S. Bernard, W. Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Diel vertical migration (DVM) is common in zooplankton populations worldwide. Every day, zooplankton leave the productive surface ocean and migrate to deepwater to avoid visual predators and return to the surface at night to feed. This behavior may also help retain migrating zooplankton in biological hotspots. Compared to fast and variable surface currents, deep ocean currents are sluggish, and can be more consistent. The time spent in the subsurface layer is driven by day length and the depth of the surface mixed layer. A subsurface, recirculating eddy has recently been described in Palmer Deep Canyon (PDC), a submarine canyon in a biological hotspot located adjacent to the West Antarctic Peninsula. Circulation model simulations have shown that residence times of neutrally buoyant particles increase with depth within this feature. We hypothesize that DVM into the subsurface eddy increases local retention of migrating zooplankton in this feature and that shallow mixed layers and longer days increase residence times. We demonstrate that simulated vertically migrating zooplankton can have residence times on the order of 30 days over the canyon, which is five times greater than residence times of near-surface, nonmigrating zooplankton within PDC and other adjacent coastal regions. The potential interaction of zooplankton with this subsurface feature may be important to the establishment of the biological hotspot around PDC by retaining food resources in the region. Acoustic field observations confirm the presence of vertical migrators in this region, suggesting that zooplankton retention due to the subsurface eddy is feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JC017482
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • biological hotspot
  • day length
  • diel vertical migration
  • mixed layer depth
  • retention


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