Antarctic krill provide carbon sink in Southern Ocean

Feb 06, 2006

New research on Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), a shrimp-like animal at the heart of the Southern Ocean food chain, reveals behaviour that shows that they absorb and transfer more carbon from the Earth’s surface than was previously understood. The results are published this week in the journal Current Biology.

Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Scarborough Centre of Coastal Studies at the University of Hull discovered that rather than doing so once per 24 hours, Antarctic krill ‘parachute’ from the ocean surface to deeper layers several times during the night. In the process they inject more carbon into the deep sea when they excrete their waste than had previously been understood.

Lead Author Dr Geraint Tarling from BAS says, “We've known for a long time that krill are the main food source for whales, penguins and seals, but we had no idea that their tactics to avoid being eaten could have such added benefits to the environment. By parachuting down they transport carbon which sinks ultimately to the ocean floor – an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 million cars – and this makes these tiny animals much more important than we thought.”

Krill feed on phytoplankton near the ocean surface at night but sink deeper in the water column during the day to hide from predators. By knowing how these animals behave, we can understand better the contribution they make to removing carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere and upper ocean.

Source: British Antarctic Survey

Explore further: New book explores link between emotions and contemporary racial violence

Related Stories

Frontier science in ocean-going lab

Apr 21, 2015

Oceanographer Dr Martina Doblin is preparing for one of the most significant explorations of her career. In early June, a mobile laboratory known as the Micro-CSI will leave from Brisbane aboard Australia's ...

Researchers study fluctuations in solar radiation

Mar 18, 2015

The Sun is the Earth's principal source of energy and climate driver. Yet sometimes it sends more light to the Earth than other times. Astronomers working with Natalie Krivova at the Max Planck Institute ...

Recommended for you

Why do people waste so much time at work?

18 hours ago

Based on research undertaken at Cass Business School, City University London, Professor Fleming explores how the act of working is no longer about survival and self-preservation, but has now morphed into ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.