© 2018

The Curious Life of Krill

A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 1-15
  3. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 17-40
  4. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 41-64
  5. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 65-83
  6. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 85-101
  7. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 103-125
  8. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 127-154
  9. Stephen Nicol
    Pages 155-173
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 175-194

About this book


Krill-it’s a familiar word that conjures oceans, whales, and swimming crustaceans. Scientists say they are one of most abundant animals on the planet. But when pressed, few people can accurately describe krill or explain their ecological importance. Antarctic krill have used their extraordinary adaptive skills to survive and thrive for millions of years in a dark, icy world far from human interference. But with climate change melting ice caps at the top and bottom of the world, and increased human activity and pollution, their evolutionary flexibility to withstand these new pressures may not be enough.

Eminent krill scientist Stephen Nicol wants us to know more about this enigmatic creature of the sea. He argues that it’s critical to understand krill’s complex biology in order to protect them as the krill fishing industry expands. This account of Antarctic krill-one of the largest of eighty-five krill species-takes us to the Southern Ocean to learn firsthand the difficulties and rewards of studying krill in its habitat. Nicol lays to rest the notion that krill are simply microscopic, shrimplike whale food but are in fact midway up the food chain, consumers of phytoplankton and themselves consumed by whales, seals, and penguins. From his early education about the sex lives of krill in the Bay of Fundy to a krill tattoo gone awry, Nicol uses humor and personal stories to bring the biology and beauty of krill alive. In the final chapters, he examines the possibility of an increasingly ice-free Southern Ocean and what that means for the fate of krill-and us.

Ocean enthusiasts will come away with a newfound appreciation for the complex ecology of a species we have much to learn from, and many reasons to protect.


krill crustacean Antarctic Southern Ocean CCAMLR euphausiid sea ice

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of TasmaniaTaroonaAustralia

About the authors

Stephen Nicol has spent his scientific career working with krill in the Antarctic as well as in Canada and South Africa. Nicol was born in Ireland and had an eclectic education in England, the United States, Scotland, and Canada. He has published extensively on many aspects of krill biology, on the management of the krill fishery, on the Southern Ocean ecosystem as well as on more esoteric aspects of human interactions with krill. He worked for the Australian Government’s Antarctic Division for twenty-four years as a research scientist and program leader. During that time, he also served on Australia’s delegation to the international commission that manages Antarctica’s fisheries.  He was awarded the Australian Antarctic medal for his services to Antarctic research in 2011. He led four major voyages to Antarctica and has participated in another four. In 2011 he retired and enrolled in a master’s degree program in creative writing, which resulted in several published short stories, photographic essays, and travel articles—and this book. He supervises graduate students and lectures at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania where he holds the title of Adjunct Professor. He provides advice on krill to bodies such as the Antarctic Krill Fishing Association, to various conservation organisations, and to anyone who will listen.

Bibliographic information

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