Virtual view into the world of krill

Antarctic krill
Antarctic krill (Photo: Rob King)

1st August 2017

For the first time the public will be able to join a live online tour of the Australian Antarctic Division’s krill aquarium as part of National Science Week.

The behind-the-scenes tour will delve into some of the current research on the physiology, behaviour and reproduction of krill, as well as introduce some of the people working to better understand this keystone species.

Antarctic krill are one of the most abundant and successful animal species on Earth, with an estimated 500 million tonnes of the crustacean in the Southern Ocean.

Krill are a critical part of the Antarctic ecosystem with most of the larger animals such as seals, whales and seabirds depending directly or indirectly on them to survive.

Join us @AusAntarctic for a Facebook Live tour of our Antarctic Krill aquarium at 11.30 am (AEST) on Thursday, 17 August 2017 for a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility.

[Video]

Antarctic Division krill aquarium

Video transcript

Antarctic Division biologist Rob King:

Krill are crustaceans. The Antarctic krill is special, because it's both large at about five centimetres in size, but also tremendously abundant. We think there's between 160 and 500 million tonnes of krill swimming around the southern ocean. Antarctic krill are critically important keystone species in the southern ocean ecosystem. They take the primary production, the phytoplankton, and pass that energy up through them in a single step to the higher order predators; so, seals, penguins, sea birds, and the great baleen whales. With Antarctic krill, we're studying the effects of ocean acidification and climate change. Antarctic krill are in an environment that is warming. That has an effect on sea ice. Sea ice is the nursery habitat for young larval krill, and the ocean is also acidifying. What we know now is, if we do nothing about carbon dioxide emissions, by the end of this century, only half the eggs for Antarctic krill in the southern ocean will hatch that currently hatch today. By the year 2300, we would expect the hatch rate to be at 2 percent of what it is today. Understanding what's going to happen to krill is paramount to understanding the future of the ecosystem.

[end transcript]