Krill-copepod interactions at South Georgia, Antarctica, I. Omnivory by Euphausia superba
Feeding by juvenile Antarctic krill Euphausia superba near South Georgia was assessed during the austral summer of 1995/1996. Gut fluorescence results were compared with those from incubations in natural seawater and seawater enriched with phytoplankton and zooplankton. In natural seawater, with typically low food concentrations (median 56 mg C m-3) the median ration was 0.68% of krill carbon d-1. Phytoplankton dominated carbon in the natural incubation water but dinoflagellates, ciliates and small calanoid copepods dominated the carbon intake of krill. In both natural and enriched water, maximum clearance rates were on 1 to 3 mm calanoid copepods. Copepods larger than this (e.g. late copepodite stages of Calanoides acutus and Rhincalanus gigas) were cleared more slowly despite dominating the carbon in the enriched incubations. Oithona spp. were cleared more slowly than calanoids of similar size, despite their greater abundance and their similar contributions to available carbon. These trends could reflect detection/escape interactions between krill and copepods. With enriched food, copepods dominated krill diet, krill rations exceeded 10% of body carbon d-1 and rations did not appear to reach a plateau even at food concentrations of ~1 g C m-3. This suggests that krill could feed rapidly during periodic encounters with layers or patches of zooplankton. Gut fluorescence revealed gut passage times of 3.7 to 6.3 h and an algal carbon ration of 0.43% d-1, thus supporting the low algal carbon rations derived from the incubations. Published acoustic values of mean krill biomass north of South Georgia that summer of 8.3 g dry mass m-2 were combined with their clearance rates to give estimates of krill removing daily 0.2% of phytoplankton standing stocks, 0.6% of protozoans and 1.6% of small calanoid copepods. This impact on copepods is much higher than previous estimates from Antarctic amphipods and chaetognaths. The long generation times of Antarctic copepods mean that krill were potentially important predators of small copepods during our study.