Blue whales consume up to one million krill per mouthful, but if humans ate too many krill without peeling them, the high levels of fluoride in their shells would poison us.
These were just two of many fascinating krill facts on offer at an Antarctic exhibition, presented by the Australian Antarctic Division at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, during National Science Week in August.
While live krill were a hit with school students and the public, the live phytoplankton display — featuring the most important organisms in the food chain — also proved popular. Visitors were able to view the tiny, single-celled plants under the microscope, and see highly detailed scanning electron micrograph images of their intricate structures. A ‘minicosm', used to grow phytoplankton during ship-board experiments in the Southern Ocean, was also on show.
The Division's research diving team showed off the latest in polar dive-wear and equipment, and the research they support. Despite wearing many thermal layers, a dry suit and three-fingered gloves to keep warm, they can carry out a range of fiddly procedures, including attaching photosynthesis measuring devices to fragile pieces of seaweed.
Climate scientists were also on hand to explain how ice cores help them understand past climate and detect and monitor changes in today’s climate. Dr Tas van Ommen wowed visitors with a 500-year old Antarctic ice core and displays showing what it’s like to work on the ice and drill an ice core.
Last but not least, biologist, Dr Graham Hosie, gave a demonstration of the ancient Japanese art of fish printing or ‘Gyotaku'. Dr Hosie learnt the technique from internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Boshu Nagase, who visited the Australian Antarctic Division in 2004 and who has donated a number of his Antarctic fish prints to the Division.