Large-Scale Fluctuations in Distribution and Abundance of Krill — A Discussion of Possible Causes

  • J. Priddle
  • J. P. Croxall
  • I. Everson
  • R. B. Heywood
  • E. J. Murphy
  • P. A. Prince
  • C. B. Sear


Unusually low abundance of krill may last for periods of several months in the Scotia Sea near South Georgia and in Bransfield Strait. Two longer data sets on krill predators suggest that such events may occur two or three times in a decade, and that the situation normally returns to normal in the following season. It seems most unlikely that these events can be ascribed to features of krill biology. Simple models of recruitment failure or mortality cannot explain the observed changes, and alteration in small-scale distribution is not indicated by the available data. More probable mechanisms must involve large-scale changes in distribution of krill brought about by ocean-atmosphere processes. Whilst natural variation in mesoscale features has an appropriate spatial scale, the likely duration is too short. However, a breakdown of hydrographic structure in the surface water over a large area would drastically decrease the residence time of krill and it would take a longer time to reestablish high krill biomass. A prolonged period of southwards airflow over the Scotia Sea is identified as the likely driving force in this model. Such an airflow has been identified from atmospheric pressure distribution in the winters of 1983 and 1986, and was associated with southwards displacement of both warm surface water and of pack ice in the northern Weddell Sea.


Southern Ocean Antarctic Circumpolar Current Drake Passage Antarctic Krill Euphausia Superba 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amos AF (1984) Distribution of krill (Euphausia superba) and the hydrography of the Southern Ocean: large-scale processes. J Crustacean Biol 4 (Spec No 1):306–329Google Scholar
  2. Angel MV, Fasham MJR (1983) Eddies and biological processes. In: Robinson AR (ed) Eddies in marine science. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 492–524Google Scholar
  3. Astheimer H (1986) A length class model of the population dynamics of the Antarctic krill Euphausia superba Dana. Polar Biol 6: 227–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker DJ, Nowlin WD, Pillsbury RD, Bryden HL (1977) Antarctic Circumpolar Current: space and time fluctuations in the Drake Passage. Nature (London) 268:696–699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beddington JR, May RM (1982) The harvesting of interacting species in a natural ecosystem. Sci Am 247(5):42–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beklemishev CW (1960) Southern atmospheric cyclones and the whale feeding grounds in the Antarctic. Nature (London) 187: 530–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brodie PF, Sameoto DD, Sheldon RW (1978) Population densities of euphausiids off Nova Scotia as indicated by net samples, whale stomach contents and sonar. Limnol Oceanogr 23:1264–1267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryden HL (1983) The Southern Ocean. In: Robinson AR (ed) Eddies in marine science. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 265–277Google Scholar
  9. Carleton AM (1988) Antarctic sea ice-atmosphere signal of the Southern Oscillation in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. J Climat 1:379–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carmack EC, Foster TD (1975) On the flow of water out of the Weddell Sea. Deep-Sea Res 22:722–724Google Scholar
  11. Chernyy El (1966) The influence of hydrologic conditions on the distribution of baleen whales in the Antarctic. TINRO 58:223–228 (in Russian - English translation 1973 by Naval Oceanogr Off, Washington DC, No 567)Google Scholar
  12. Clarke A, Morris DJ (1983) Towards an energy budget for krill: the physiology and biochemistry of Euphausia superba Dana. Polar Biol 2:69–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Croxall JP, Lishman GS (1987) The food and feeding ecology of penguins. In: Croxall JP (ed) Seabirds: feeding ecology and role in marine ecosystems. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, pp 101–133Google Scholar
  14. Croxall JP, Prince PA (1987) Seabirds as predators on marine resources, especially krill, at South Georgia. In: Croxall JP (ed) Seabirds: feeding ecology and role in marine ecosystems. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, pp 347–368Google Scholar
  15. Croxall JP, Everson I, Kooyman GL, Ricketts C, Davis RW (1985) Fur seal diving behaviour in relation to vertical distribution of krill. J Anim Ecol 54:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Croxall JP, Davis RW, O’Connell MJ (1988) Diving patterns in relation to diet in gentoo and macaroni penguins, Pygoscellis papua and Eudyptes chrysolophus, at South Georgia. Condor 90:157–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Everson I (1976) Antarctic krill: a reappraisal of its distribution. Polar Rec 18:15–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Everson I (1981) Antarctic krill. In: El-Sayed SZ (ed) BIOMASS, vol 2. Selected Contrib Woods Hole Conf Living Resources of the Southern Ocean 1976. SCAR, Cambridge, pp 31–45Google Scholar
  19. Everson I, Bone DG (1986) Detection of krill (Euphausia superba) near the sea surface: preliminary results using a towed upward- looking echo-sounder. Bull Br Antarct Surv 72:61–70Google Scholar
  20. Fevolden SE (1984) Biotic and physical environmental impact on genetic variation of krill. J Crustacean Biol 4 (Spec No 1):206–223Google Scholar
  21. Foster TD, Middleton JH (1984) The oceanographic structure of the eastern Scotia Sea. Deep-Sea Res 31:529–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Foxton P (1956) The distribution of the standing crop of zooplankton in the Southern Ocean. Discovery Rep 28:191–236Google Scholar
  23. Gambell R (1985) Birds and mammals - Antarctic whales. In: Bonner WN, Walton DWH (eds) Key environments - Antarctica. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 223–241Google Scholar
  24. Georgi DT (1978) Fine structure in the Antarctic Polar Front Zone: its characteristics and possible relationships to internal waves. J Geophys Res 83:4579–4588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gordon AL (1967) Structure of Antarctic waters between 20° W and 170°W. Antarctic Map Folio Ser 6, Am Geogr Soc, 10 ppGoogle Scholar
  26. Gordon AL, Goldberg RD (1970) Circumpolar characteristics of Antarctic waters. Antarctic Map Folio Ser 13, Am Geogr Soc, 5 ppGoogle Scholar
  27. Grant WS (1983) Population genetics of krill and comparison with other marine organisms. Ber Polarforsch Sonderh 4:246–266Google Scholar
  28. Gulland JA (1983) Fish stock assessment: a manual of basic methods. FAO-Wiley series on food and agriculture, vol 1. Wiley, New York, 223 ppGoogle Scholar
  29. Hancock DA (1973) The relationship between stock and recruitment in exploited invertebrates. Rapp PV Reun Cons Int Explor Mer 164:113–131Google Scholar
  30. Hardy AC, Gunther ER (1935) The plankton of the South Georgia whaling grounds and adjacent waters, 1926–1932. Discovery Rep 11:1–456Google Scholar
  31. Harmer SF (1931) Southern whaling. Proc Linn Soc London Session 142 (1929–30):85–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Heywood RB, Everson I, Priddle J (1985) The absence of krill from the South Georgia zone, winter 1983. Deep-Sea Res 32: 369–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jarogov A (1969) On the physico-geographical conditions of the krill habitat. TINRO 66:85–101 (in Russian)Google Scholar
  34. Kemp S, Bennett AG (1932) On the distribution and movements of whales on the South Georgia and South Shetland whaling grounds. Discovery Rep 6:165–190Google Scholar
  35. Laws RM (1984) The ecology of the Southern Ocean. Am Sci 73: 26–40Google Scholar
  36. Legeckis R (1977) Ocean polar front in the Drake Passage - satellite observations during 1976. Deep-Sea Res 24:701–704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Longhurst A (1984) Heterogeneity in the ocean - implications for fisheries. Rapp PV Reun Cons Int Explor Mer 185:268–282Google Scholar
  38. Macaulay MC, English TS, Mathisen OA (1984) Acoustic characterisation of swarms of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) from Elephant Island and Bransfield Strait. J Crustacean Biol 4 (Spec No 1): 16–44Google Scholar
  39. MacDonald CM, Schneppenheim R (1983) Breeding structure and stock identity in the Antarctic krill Euphausia superba Dana. Ber Polarforsch Sonderh 4:240–245Google Scholar
  40. MacDonald CM, Williams R, Adams M (1986) Genetic variation and population structure of krill (Euphausia superba Dana) from the Prydz Bay region of Antarctic waters. Polar Biol 6:233–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mackintosh NA (1972) Life cycle of Antarctic krill in relation to ice and water conditions. Discovery Rep 36:1–94Google Scholar
  42. Marr JWS (1962) The natural history and geography of the Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba Dana). Discovery Rep 32:33–464Google Scholar
  43. Maslennikov VV (1980) Modern concepts on the large-scale circulation of the Antarctic water and routes of mass drift of Euphausia superba. Trudy VNIRO, Biological resources of the Antarctic krill. ISSNO 372–2864:8–27 (in Russian)Google Scholar
  44. Miller DGM (1985) The South African SIBEX 1 Cruise to the Prydz Bay region, 1984: IX. Krill Euphausia superba Dana). S Afr J Antarct Res 15:33–41Google Scholar
  45. Miller DGM (1986) Results from biological investigations of krill (Euphausia superba) in the Southern Ocean during SIBEX 1. Mem Natl Inst Polar Res Spec Issue 40:117–139Google Scholar
  46. Miller DGM, Hampton I (ms) A review of the biology and status of the Antarctic krill Euphausia superba Dana. Sea Fisheries Res Inst, Roggebaai, South Africa, 261 ppGoogle Scholar
  47. Mizroch SA (1984) The development of balaenopterid whaling in the Antarctic. Cetus 5(2):6–10Google Scholar
  48. Mizroch SA, Rice DW, Bengtson JL, Larson SW (1985) Preliminary atlas of balaenopterid whale distribution in the Southern Ocean based on pelagic catch data. Rep SC-CAMLR-IV/BG/21 to CCAMLR Sci Comm, 9 ppGoogle Scholar
  49. Morris DJ, Priddle J (1984) Observations on the feeding and moulting of the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba Dana, in winter. Bull Br Antarct Surv 65:57–63Google Scholar
  50. Mujica A, Asencio V (1985) Fish larvae, euphausiids and community structure of zooplankton in the Bransfield Strait (SIBEX - Phase 1) 1984. Ser Cient INACH (Engl Ed) 33:131–154Google Scholar
  51. NOCD (1985) Sea ice climate atlas, vol 1. Antarctic. Naval Oceanography Command Detachment, Asheville, 131 ppGoogle Scholar
  52. Nowlin WD, Klinck JM (1986) The physics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Rev Geophys 24:469–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Philander SGH (1986) Predictability of El Niño. Nature (London) 321:810–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Priddle J, Hawes I, Ellis-Evans JC, Smith TJ (1986a) Antarctic aquatic ecosystems as habitats for phytoplankton. Biol Rev 61: 199–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Priddle J, Heywood RB, Theriot E (1986b) Some environmental factors influencing phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean around South Georgia. Polar Biol 5:65–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ramage CS (1986) El Niño. Sei Am 254(6) :55–61Google Scholar
  57. Rojas R (1985) Description of the thermal structure of the Bransfield Strait based on XBT observations. Ser Cient INACH (Engl Ed) 33:83–114Google Scholar
  58. Rosenberg AA, Beddington JR, Basson M (1986) Growth and longevity of krill during the first decade of pelagic whaling. Nature (London) 324:152–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schneppenheim R, MacDonald CM (1983) Population genetics of krill (Euphausia superba). Ber Polarforsch Sonderh 4:239Google Scholar
  60. Schneppenheim R, MacDonald CM (1984) Genetic variation and population structure of krill (Euphausia superba) in the Atlantic Sector of Antarctic waters off the Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biol 3:19–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Siegel V (1986) Untersuchungen zur Biologie des antarktischen Krill, Euphausia superba, im Bereich der Bransfield Straße und angrenzender Gebiete. Mitt Inst Seefisch Hamburg 38:1–244Google Scholar
  62. Terazaki M, Wada M (1986) Euphausiids collected from the Australian Sector of the Southern Ocean during the BIOMASS SIBEX cruise (KH-83–4). Mem Natl Inst Polar Res Spec Issue 40:97–109Google Scholar
  63. Witek Z, Kittel W, Czykieta H, Zmijewska MI, Presler E (1985) Macrozooplankton in the southern Drake Passage and in the Bransfield Strait during BIOMASS-SIBEX (December 1983- January 1984). Polish Polar Res (Engl Ed) 6:95–115Google Scholar
  64. Zwally HJ, Comiso JC, Parkinson CL, Cambell WJ, Carsey FD, Gloersen P (1983) Antarctic sea-ice, 1973–76: satellite passive- microwave observations. Nat Aeronaut Space Administr, Washington DC, 206 ppGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Priddle
    • 1
  • J. P. Croxall
    • 1
  • I. Everson
    • 1
  • R. B. Heywood
    • 1
  • E. J. Murphy
    • 1
  • P. A. Prince
    • 1
  • C. B. Sear
    • 2
  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyNatural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Science Applications International CorporationCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations