Instantaneous movement of krill swarms in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

Geraint A. Tarling and Sally E. Thorpe

Limnol. Oceanogr., 59(3), 2014, 872-886 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2014.59.3.0872

ABSTRACT: Antarctic krill are known to have strong swimming capabilities, but direct observations of the speed and direction of krill-swarm movement within their natural environment are rare. We identified and examined 4060 swarms within the main flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (Scotia Sea) using a combination of an EK60 echosounder, a 153.6 kHz acoustic Doppler current profiler, and ground-truthing nets. Net displacement magnitude (m) and net angle of deviation (d) were determined by vector subtraction from the background flow immediately below them. Values were compared against control data sets in which swarms were absent. With greater background flow, m became increasingly lower than predicted, which suggests that drag influences swarm movement. The characteristics of the flow regime influenced swarm behavior, given that both m and d varied according to the direction of background flow. Furthermore, multiple-regression analysis indicated that swarm area, the vicinity of the sea-ice edge, and salinity had a significant influence on m, with levels of displacement being greatest in larger swarms and in low-salinity regions close to the ice edge. The ice edge is a key environment for Antarctic krill and swarm behavior may assist in retaining this location. Only fluorescence was found to have a significant influence on d, with deviations being greatest in regions of highest fluorescence. This agrees with laboratory observations of krill turning more frequently within food patches. We demonstrate that it is possible to measure instantaneous movement patterns in Antarctic krill swarms and, at large scales, these movements are consistent with current understanding of responses of krill to local stimuli such as sea-ice and patches of food.

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