An Introduction to the Biology of Northern Krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica Sars)

Geraint A. Tarling, Natalie S. Ensor, Torsten Fregin, William P. Goodall-Copestake, Peter Fretwell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

29 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter provides a background to research on Northern krill biology, starting with a description of its morphology and identifying features, and the historical path to its eventual position as a single-species genus. There is a lack of any euphausiid fossil material, so phylogenetic analysis has relied on comparative morphology and ontogeny and, more recently, genetic methods. Although details differ, the consensus of these approaches is that Meganyctiphanes is most closely related to the genus Thysanoessa. The light organs (or photophores) are well developed in Northern krill and the control of luminescence in these organs is described. A consideration of the distribution of the species shows that it principally occupies shelf and slope waters of both the western and eastern coasts of the North Atlantic, with a southern limit at the boundary with sub-tropical waters (plus parts of the Mediterranean) and a northern limit at the boundary with Arctic water masses. Recent evidence of a northward expansion of these distributional limits is considered further. There have been a variety of techniques used to sample and survey Northern krill populations for a variety of purposes, which this chapter collates and assesses in terms of their effectiveness. Northern krill play an important ecological role, both as a contributor to the carbon pump through the transport of faecal material to the deeper layers, and as a key prey item for groundfish, squid, baleen whales, and seabirds. The commercial exploitation of Northern krill has been slow to emerge since its potential was considered by Mauchline [Mauchline, J (1980). The biology of mysids and euphausiids. Adv. Mar. Biol. 18, 1–681]. However, new uses for products derived from krill are currently being found, which may lead to a new wave of exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Marine Biology
Number of pages40
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-12-381308-4
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2010

Publication series

ISSN (Print)00652881


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