Laboratory and field estimates of the rate of faecal pellet production by Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba
The time course of faecal pellet production (egestion) was monitored in January 1985 for a population of Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba Dana, maintained in flowing seawater aquaria at Palmer Station, Antarctica. Following transfer to filtered seawater, krill produced faecal strings for roughly 40 min, after which time faecal egestion virtually ceased. Similar results were obtained for freshly-trawled krill at sea in February and March 1985. There were wide daily variations in total faecal egestion rate; mean rates varied from 0.54 to 1.66 mg dry wt h-1 and individual rates from 0.25 to 2.35 mg h-1 (all data corrected to a standard krill of 600 mg fresh weight). Despite these wide fluctuations in total faecal egestion, the loss of organic matter showed no significant daily variation, with a mean value of 0.13 mgh-1. The relationship between faecal egestion rate and faecal organic content suggested that feeding rate was governed by food quality; when inorganic load was high, feeding rate increased to ensure sufficient energy intake. The data suggest that superfluous feeding does not occur in krill and that values of gut-clearance time calculated from time intervals greater than about 40 min will not be representative of previous feeding history. the rates of faecal egestion observed in this study indicate that the flux of faecal pellets from krill is substantial. They imply an energy intake in E. superba of 17 to 28% body weight per day, much higher than estimated previously for this species by summing known energy losses, but similar to estimates for other euphausiids.