When no signal is a good signal

A sample of our krill catch.  Krill krill everywhere...but what are they eating?

A sample of our krill catch. Krill krill everywhere…but what are they eating?

A basic question of our project is how krill survive in low/no food conditions. What do krill do to survive the long, dark winter in the Antarctic? Do they reduce their activity and ‘hibernate’? Do they find a food source we do not know about? So, while winter in the Antarctic may not be a very attractive time to visit, we came here to observe krill in conditions of low food, and that just happens to be in late fall and winter. Measuring plant pigments in the water is one way to measure how much plant-like food may be available to krill. When we took samples at many depths today, we found there is almost no pigment anywhere. A little bit at the surface and less than little at the bottom. A normal concentration in our home estuary of Narragansett Bay may be around 3-4 and up to 25. The concentration we are measuring here is 0.1. So, while making such a small measurement is not satisfying to the mind who wants to detect and discover, the result is telling us that we have found exactly the conditions we are looking for. Now, we are off to see what the krill do under these ‘stressful’ conditions. Are they stressed, or more likely, do they have ways to cope?

-Susanne Menden-Deuer

Our filter manifold.  Water is poured into each cup, and filtered to capture the plant pigments in the water.

Our filter manifold. Water is poured into each cup, and filtered to capture the plant pigments in the water.

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Categories: Musings of an Oceanographer, Science Updates! | Leave a comment

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