• Home
  • Blog
  • Antarctic krill: Antarctica's Superfood

Antarctic krill: Antarctica's Superfood

by Victoria Boano Blog

The size of a paper clip, pink, krill is a shrimp-like crustacean that does not look like much. Without them, though, the Earth marine ecosystems would collapse completely.
Antarctic krill: Antarctica's Superfood

Regions: Antarctica

Krill: Antarctica's Superfood

The size of a paper clip, pink, krill is a shrimp-like crustacean that does not look like much. Without them, though, the Earth marine ecosystems would collapse completely. 

Euphausia superba: the Antarctic krill

The Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, are among the largest of the 85 known krill species and it can live up to ten years. They congregate in swarms in the cold waters around Antarctica, and their estimated numbers range from 125 million tons to 6 billion tons: the total weight of all the Antarctic krill is more than the total weight of all humans on Earth.

The body of Euphausia superba is about 2 inches long and translucent, with reddish brown blotches. The swimming larvae pass through nine stages of development. Males mature in about 22 months, females in about 25 months. During a spawning period of about five and a half months, the eggs are shed at a depth of about 740 feet. The krill larvae gradually move toward the surface as they develop, feeding on microscopic organisms. From January to April the swarms of krill in the Antarctic Ocean may reach concentrations of about 35 pounds per cubic yard.

Fundamental link in the food chain

The Antarctic krill are a fundamental link in the food chain: they are near the bottom, feeding mainly on phytoplankton and to a lesser extent zooplankton. They undertake large daily vertical migrations, providing food for predators near the surface at night and in deeper waters during the day. Half of all krill is eaten each year by whales, sea birds, seals, penguins, squid and fish, and it is quickly replaced by growth and reproduction. Watch some dramatic footage of humpback whales hunting krill in Antarctica.     

 

The luminescent crustacean

When cruising in Antarctic waters, you might perceive a strange luminescence in the ocean. It's the krill swarms emitting light, produced by bioluminescent organs which are located in various parts of the individual krill's body: one pair of organs at the eyestalk, another pair on the hips of the second and seventh thoracopods, and singular organs on the four pleonsternites. These organs emit a yellow-green light periodically, for up to two or three seconds.

Antarctic krill fishing

Commercial krill fishing began in the early 1970s, and in 1981 a unique fishing treaty was signed: the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is designed to protect the Antarctic ecosystem from the consequences of rapidly-expanding fisheries, and to aid recovery of the great whales and some of the overexploited species of fish. The CCAMLR is an international body which manages the krill fishing and sets limits on the krill catch taking into account the needs of other elements of the ecosystem. The total allowable catch for the southwest Atlantic is currently about 5.6 million tonnes annually.    

The amazing nutritional properties of krill are not lost on humans. Krill are fished commercially mainly to produce animal food and fish bait, but there is a recent increase in the use of krill by the drug industry; they are also eaten in parts of Asia and used as an omega-3 supplement in the U.S. Pope Francis, for example, supplements his diet with krill oil supplements, a strong antioxidant rich in omega 3 fatty acid, and enriched with vitamin D3.      

Take a closer look at Antarctic krill

If you want to take a closer look at Antarctic krill without leaving the comfort of your home, the Antarctic Australian Division set up a webcam above their krill tank. The video is updated every 15 minutes. 

Love this article? Share your appreciation:

Related cruises

Ross Sea | Incl. helicopters
Up to 5500 USD discount

Ross Sea | Incl. helicopters

Enderby Island - Campbell Island - Ross Sea - Peter I Island - Antarctic Peninsula & Polar Circle | The most spectacular Antarctic journey ever!

OTL28-20. Sail to the southern parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, Peter I Island, the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas into the Ross Sea. Visiting the Ross Ice-shelf, Dry Valleys, McMurdo Station, Campbell Island, Enderby Island and the historic huts of Scott and Shackleton.

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Cruise date:

16 Feb - 18 Mar, 2020

Price:

27500 USD 22000 USD 5500 USD discount

Antarctica - Discovery and learning voyage

Classic Antarctica including Deception Island

HDS29-20. This Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise delivers you into a landscape of dark rugged rock, pure white snow, and a fantastic variety of wildlife. Come say hello to whales, seals, and thousands of penguins. Including photo workshops with Massimo Bassano and video workshops with Myri...

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

5 Feb - 15 Feb, 2020

Price:

7950 USD

Antarctic Explorer's Voyage
Up to 1900 USD discount

Antarctic Explorer's Voyage

Antarctic Pioneering Voyage

PLA29-20. During this voyage, we will attempt landings that have rarely if ever been offered by Oceanwide Expeditions – or any other Antarctic cruise operator. Flexibility is key during these thrilling expeditions. Since information about most of the landing sites is limited or unknown, this target itinerary...

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

6 Feb - 16 Feb, 2020

Price:

7950 USD

Antarctica - Discovery and learning voyage

The 'Classic Antarctic' route

HDS30-20. The 'Classic Antarctic' route. This cruise delivers you to wondrous landscapes found in one of the harshest environments on Earth. The great star-actors of Antarctica are the penguins and in total seven species could appear before your very own eyes. Including video workshops with George Kennedy.

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

15 Feb - 24 Feb, 2020

Price:

7200 USD

Antarctica - Polar Circle

Crossing the Polar Circle

PLA30-20. This Polar Circle and Antarctic Peninsula cruise passes through waters travelled by Humpback, Minke and Fin whales. Anchoring in various spots around the region, the expedition offers the chance to hike, kayak, and dive in the iceberg-heavy waters.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

16 Feb - 27 Feb, 2020

Price:

7950 USD