Animal behavior is central in shaping the realized diel light niche

Sören Häfker, N. and Connan-McGinty, Stacey and Hobbs, Laura and McKee, David and Cohen, Jonathan H. and Last, Kim S. (2022) Animal behavior is central in shaping the realized diel light niche. Communications Biology, 5. p. 562. 562. ISSN 2399-3642 (

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Animal behavior in space and time is structured by the perceived day/night cycle. However, this is modified by the animals' own movement within its habitat, creating a realized diel light niche (RDLN). To understand the RDLN, we investigated the light as experienced by zooplankton undergoing synchronized diel vertical migration (DVM) in an Arctic fjord around the spring equinox. We reveal a highly dampened light cycle with diel changes being about two orders of magnitude smaller compared to the surface or a static depth. The RDLN is further characterized by unique wavelength-specific irradiance cycles. We discuss the relevance of RDLNs for animal adaptations and interactions, as well as implications for circadian clock entrainment in the wild and laboratory.