Animals of the Ice: Antarctic Krill


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Al Giddings, Ernie Kovacs, Howard Hall Productions / Footage Search

Photos: Kils and Marschall, Rutgers Marine and Coastal Sciences, Oystein Paulsen

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Krill are small crustaceans found throughout the ocean. They play an important role in the aquatic food chain, particularly in the Southern Ocean.

Antarctic krill provide a vital food source for whales, seals, ice fish, and penguins. These animals depend on eating large quantities of krill for survival in the harsh climate.

For their own meals, Antarctic krill eat small plants like phytoplankton, as well as algae under the surface of sea ice.

Krill have the ability to shrink their bodies and undergo long periods of starvation. These adaptations allow them to survive the winter months in the Antarctic.

Krill travel in swarms so dense they can actually be seen from space. And it's estimated that the total weight of Antarctic krill is more than the weight of all humans on Earth. Pretty impressive for an animal the size of your pinky.

And that's life with the ice for Antarctic krill.