Ecology

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are a cold-water marine species, occurring within the Antarctic region of the Southern Ocean. Maturing at around 2-3 years, E. superba can produce as many as 8,000 eggs at one time. This process can occur multiple times per season, which can last up to 5 months (Marinebio, 2013). E. superba have a life span of around 5-6 years and can reach lengths of up to 6cm. They feed upon marine algae, chiefly phytoplankton (especially diatoms), occurring under the sea ice (Figure 1), which they filter out of the water column using their specially developed front legs (Kills, 1983).

Figure 1: Antarctic krill feeing off of the sea ice
Figure 1: Antarctic krill feeding off the sea ice

This is part of the reason why E. superba are found in extremely high abundance in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica – at approximately 500 million tonnes (Schiermeier, 2010) – thus making them one of the most highly abundant faunal species on the planet (Nicol & Endo, 1997).