MEPS 239:157-167 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps239157

Using the relationship between eye diameter and body length to detect the effects of long-term starvation on Antarctic krill Euphausia superba

Hyoung-Chul Shin1,*, Stephen Nicol2

1Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, GPO Box 252-77, Tasmania 7001, Australia
2Antarctic Marine Living Resources Program, Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia
*Present address: Polar Sciences Laboratory, Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, Ansan, PO Box 29, Seoul 425-600, Republic of Korea. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Body shrinkage may be one of the strategies that Antarctic krill use to cope with food scarcity, particularly during winter. Despite their demonstrated ability to shrink, there are only very limited data to determine how commonly shrinkage occurs in the wild. It has been previously shown that laboratory-shrunk krill tend to conserve the size of the eye. This study examined whether the relationship between the eye diameter and body length could be used to detect whether krill had been shrinking. By tracking individuals over time and examining specimens sampled as groups, it was demonstrated that fed and starved krill are distinguishable by the relationship between the eye diameter and body length. The eye diameter of starved krill did not decrease, even when the animals had shrunk in overall body length. The eye diameter of well-fed krill continued to increase as overall length increased. This created a distinction between fed and starved krill, while no separation was detected in terms of the body length to weight relationship. Eye growth of krill re-commenced with re-growth of krill following shrinkage although there was some time lag. It would take approximately 2 moult cycles of shrinkage at modest rates to significantly change the eye diameter to body length relationship between normal and shrunk krill. If krill starve for a prolonged period in the wild, and hence shrink, the eye diameter to body length relationship should be able to indicate this. This would be particularly noticeable at the end of winter.

KEY WORDS: Antarctic krill · Shrinkage · Starvation · Winter · Eye

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