Bringing Krill to Life

  • Stephen Nicol


The beauty and vital nature of krill obviously captured the imagination of the early krill scientists working in the 1920s and ’30s. Despite the vibrant descriptions of schooling krill that bring their writings to life, their science was almost entirely focused on routine measurements of preserved animals. There was one exception. A paper published in 1967 described an experiment on live krill carried out in the 1920s. The author seemed almost apologetic for wasting the reader’s time: “The observations described in this paper were made only as a casual experiment to occupy a little spare time.” Obviously, understanding the biology of living krill was not deemed that important back then. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when that paper finally saw the light of day, that scientists felt the need to devote a little more time to the study of living krill. In the 1970s and ’80s the spotlight slowly turned to Antarctic krill, largely because of the growing fishery (see chapters six and seven). The largest ever international marine biological research program, Biological Investigations of Marine Antarctic Systems and Stocks (BIOMASS) commenced. This program focused on the role of krill in the Southern Ocean ecosystem. BIOMASS invigorated studies on living krill, and the modern era of krill biology began.

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© Stephen Nicol 2018

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  • Stephen Nicol

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