Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a large euphausiid, widely distributed within the Southern Ocean, and a key species in the Antarctic food web. The Discovery Investigations in the early 20th century, coupled with subsequent work with both nets and echosounders, indicated that the bulk of the population of postlarval krill is typically confined to the top 150 m of the water column. Here, we report for the first time the existence of significant numbers of Antarctic krill feeding actively at abyssal depths in the Southern Ocean. Biological observations from the deepwater remotely operated vehicle Isis in the austral summer of 2006/07 have revealed the presence of adult krill (Euphausia superba Dana), including gravid females, at unprecedented depths in Marguerite Bay, western Antarctic Peninsula. Adult krill were found close to the seabed at all depths but were absent from fjords close inshore. At all locations where krill were detected they were seen to be actively feeding, and at many locations there were exuviae (cast molts). These observations revise significantly our understanding of the depth distribution and ecology of Antarctic krill, a central organism in the Southern Ocean ecosystem.
(Current Biology, 18: 282–285 (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.01.059)