The condition and survival of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) strongly depends on sea ice conditions during winter. How krill utilize sea ice depends on several factors such as region and developmental stage. A comprehensive understanding of sea ice habitat use by krill, however, remains largely unknown. The aim of this study was to improve the understanding of the krill's interaction with the sea ice habitat during winter/early spring by conducting large-scale sampling of the ice-water interface (0-2 m) and comparing the size and developmental stage composition of krill with the pelagic population (0-500 m). Results show that the population in the northern Weddell Sea consisted mainly of krill that were less than one year old (age class 0; AC0), and that it was comprised of multiple cohorts. Size per developmental stage differed spatially, indicating that the krill likely were advected from various origins. The size distribution of krill differed between the two depth strata sampled. Larval stages with a relatively small size (mean 7 to 8 mm) dominated the upper two meter layer of the water column, while larger larvae and AC0 juveniles (mean 14 to 15 mm) were proportionally more abundant in the 0-500 m stratum. Our results show that, as krill mature, their vertical distribution and utilization of the sea ice appears to change gradually. This could be the result of changes in physiology and/or behaviour, as e.g. the krill's energy demand and swimming capacity increase with size and age. The degree of sea ice association will have an effect on large-scale spatial distribution patterns of AC0 krill and on predictions of the consequences of sea ice decline on their survival over winter.
AWI Organizations > Biosciences > Junior Research Group: ICEFLUX