They absorb and transfer more carbon from the Earth’s surface than was previously understood. New research on Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) reveals this behavior. Antarctic krill is a shrimp-like animal at the heart of the Southern Ocean food chain. The results are published this week in the journal Current Biology.
Rather than doing so once per 24 hours, Antarctic krill ‘parachute’ from the ocean surface to deeper layers several times during the night. It is discovered by scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Scarborough Centre of Coastal Studies at the University of Hull.
Lead Author Dr Geraint Tarling from BAS says, ‘We’ve known for a long time that krill are the main food source for whales, penguins and seals, but we had no idea that their tactics to avoid being eaten could have such added benefits to the environment. By parachuting down they transport carbon which sinks ultimately to the ocean floor – an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 million cars – and this makes these tiny animals much more important than we thought.’