Ultraviolet light …..UV as a threat

Posted on June 26, 2010

In high latitudes, ultraviolet radiation has the potential to be very damaging to aquatic animals because waters are relatively transparent and light is continuous during summer.  In addition, UV fluxes have increased due to ozone depletion, and are set to increase by a further 20-90% over the next ten years.  These concerns have prompted research to assess the extent to which different species are protected from UV damage by naturally occurring pigments (typically, high latitude animal plankton are red, brown or black in colour).  Analyses of twelve common crustacean species – including water fleas, copepods, fairy shrimps and tadpole shrimps – collected from tundra ponds inCanadaandAlaskarevealed the presence of four main types of UV protectants, namely carotenoids, melanins, scytonemin and mycosporine-like amino acids.  All twelve species had protective pigments and most had multiple types.  Since the various pigments have different protective properties, it seems that when they occur together, these compounds provide plankton with broadband sunscreens.

Reference:   Rautio, M., Bonilla, S. & Vincent, W.F. (2009).   UV photoprotectants in Arctic zooplankton.   Aquatic Biology 7, 93–105.