Washington, Feb 26 : Scientists have discovered Antarctic krill living and feeding down to depths of 3000 meters in the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula.
Antarctic krill are minute cristaceans that are a major food source for fish, squid, penguins, seals and whales.
Because this shrimp-like crustacean was thought to live only in the upper ocean until now, the discovery completely changes scientists' understanding of the species.
The krill feeding deep down in the Antarctic waters, was discovered by scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), who used a deep-diving, remotely operated vehicle (RoV ) known as the Isis to film this previously unknown behaviour of krill.
According to Professor Andrew Clarke of the British Antarctic Survey, "It was a surprise to observe actively-feeding adult krill, including females that were apparently ready to spawn, close to the seabed in deep water."
"While most krill make their living in the ocean's surface waters, the new findings revise significantly our understanding of the depth distribution and ecology of Antarctic krill," he added.
"The importance of such observations is that, not only do we have the ability to identify species, but we can see the relations among individual species and their relationship to the ambient environment," said Professor Paul A Tyler of NOCS.
According to Clarke, the discovery holds some important lessons as well.
"The behaviour of marine organisms - even quite 'primitive' ones - can be complex and more varied than we usually assume," he said. There is still a great deal to learn about the deep sea and an important role for exploration in our attempts to understand the world we live in," said Clarke.