The diel vertical migration patterns and individual swimming behavior of overwintering sprat Sprattus sprattus

Ingrid Solberg, Stein Kaartvedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We addressed the behavioral patterns and DVM dynamics of sprat overwintering in a 150 m Norwegian fjord with increasing hypoxia by depth. An upward-facing echosounder deployed at the bottom and cabled to shore provided 4 months of continuous acoustic data. This enabled detailed studies of individual behavior, specifically allowing assessment of individual vertical migrations at dusk and dawn in relation to light, analysis of so-called rise-and-sink swimming, and investigation of the sprat’ swimming activity and behavior in severely hypoxic waters. Field campaigns supplemented the acoustic studies. The acoustic records showed that the main habitat for sprat was the upper ∼ 65 m where oxygen concentrations were ⩾ 0.7 mL O2 L-1. The sprat schooled at ∼ 50 m during daytime and initiated an upward migration about 1 hour prior to sunset. While some sprat migrated to surface waters, other individuals interrupted the ascent when at ∼20-30 m, and returned to deeper waters ∼ 20-50 min after sunset. Sprat at depth was on average larger, yet individuals made excursions to- and from upper layers. Sprat were swimming in a “rise and sink” pattern at depth, likely related to negative buoyancy. Short-term dives into waters with less than 0.45 mL O2 L-1 were interpreted as feeding forays for abundant overwintering Calanus spp. The deep group of sprat initiated a dawn ascent less than 1 hour before sunrise, ending at 20-30 m where they formed schools. They subsequently returned to deeper waters about ∼20 min prior to sunrise. Measurements of surface light intensities indicated that the sprat experienced lower light levels in upper waters at dawn than at dusk. The vertical swimming speed varied significantly between the behavioral tasks. The mixed DVM patterns and dynamic nocturnal behavior of sprat persisted throughout winter, likely shaped by individual strategies involving optimized feeding and predator avoidance, as well as relating to temperature, hypoxia and negative buoyancy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalProgress in Oceanography
StatePublished - Nov 27 2016


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