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 first-hand 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.
Chapter 1 Oceans of Krill
Chapter 2 Going with the Floes
Chapter 3 Labors of Love
Chapter 4 Bringing Krill to Life
Chapter 5 Antarctic Fast Food
Chapter 6 Catching Krill
Chapter 7 Conventional Approaches
Chapter 8 Krill Futures
About the Author
"The book is an ode to Antarctic krill [...] [Its] conversational [...] style makes you feel as if you're part of an engaging dinnertime conversation."
– Science News
"Marine scientist Nicol's passion for krill [...] certainly comes across [...] those seeking a very accessible entry point to marine biology and conservation will find it here."
– Publishers Weekly
"The Curious Life of Krill takes the reader deep into the Southern Ocean [...] Nicol writes passionately about [krill] biology, exploitation, and management."
"The Curious Life of Krill offers a newfound appreciation for the complex ecology of a species we have much to learn from, and many reasons to protect. An exceptional and impressively informative study [...] unreservedly recommended."
– Midwest Book Review
"Few scientists delight in the subjects of their study with the renaissance manner of Nicol. In The Curious Life of Krill, Nicol combines science, philosophy, art, and conservation to tell a deeply personal story of his life's work: Antarctic krill. He does so with insight, humor, and engaging, accessible prose that encourages us to think bravely and broadly about how to look after our world. For this we should be deeply grateful."
– Nick Gales, Director, Australian Antarctic Division
"An essential reflection on an essential set of creatures. With wit and hard-earned wisdom, Stephen Nicol reveals how krill drive the ecosystems at the bottom of the world and how, in an era of profound climate change, they require our most careful attention."
– Paul Greenberg, Correspondent for Frontline's The Fish on My Plate, and author of Four Fish and American Catch
"Krill expert Stephen Nicol transports us to the world of one of the ocean's most important, least-understood creatures. A krill is indeed curious: its ability to shrink when short of food, its intricate relationship with Antarctic sea ice, and its critical role in great-whale ecosystems. Read this book and you will understand our human relationship with krill, and feel that you have swum with it through Antarctic seas."
– David Agnew, Director of Science, Marine Stewardship Council