Seals face starvation as krill disappears

A A A

Scientists fear that global warming has led to a dramatic decline in stocks of krill, which is a key food for Antarctic seals, whales and penguins. New data shows krill numbers have fallen by about 80 per cent since the 1970s.

Scientists fear that global warming has led to a dramatic decline in stocks of krill, which is a key food for Antarctic seals, whales and penguins. New data shows krill numbers have fallen by about 80 per cent since the 1970s.

Researchers at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) say more work is needed "urgently" to find out what the falling numbers of the shrimp-like crustacean could mean for the larger animals which feed on it.

Angus Atkinson, a marine biologist for the BAS, reports in this week's issue of Nature that while the overall effect of the decline was unclear, earlier studies suggested that penguins' diet, hunting behaviour and population sizescould be affected.

Statistical examination suggests the reason for the decline is a reduction in the amount of winter sea ice in an area north-east of the Antarctic peninsula - just below the southern tip of South America - where the krill population is concentrated. Krill feed on algae found on the ice: without it they starve. And it is that area which has displayed a strong warming trend over the past 50 years - although Dr Atkinson said the connection to the loss of sea ice, and the precise cause of the local warming, are not known.

The team compared data from 12,000 net hauls taken between 1926 and 1939 and 1976 and 2003. Eileen Hofmann, a professor of oceanography at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, said further work was needed to establish if climate change was affecting marine food in the Antarctic peninsula and its impact on penguins, seals and whales.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat