Sorry, just couldn’t resist that headline. But the story’s no joke. It seems krill are another species extremely susceptible to changes in ocean pH, or ocean acidification.
Why do we care, as humans? These are tiny creatures we can barely see. Well, they are right at the bottom of the food chain, just like pteropods (remember those tiny sea jewels?). At the top are creatures many of us know and love, at least from the movies: seals, whales, and especially penguins. So if krill go, kiss penguins goodbye.
That’s a reason to care, if you don’t value biodiversity for its own sake.
The study was conducted at the Australian Antarctic Division, University of Tasmania.
"In Ms [Lilli] Hale’s study, the division’s world-first krill breeding research facility near Hobart was used to hatch 200 larvae in jars with an artificial atmospheric carbon dioxide level increased to the worst-case 2100 level. "Their anatomy wasn’t quite right," Ms Hale said. "They were a bit deformed, and they were listless. It’s unlikely they would have survived through to adulthood."
When carbon dioxide levels were raised even further, fertilised eggs did not hatch at all.
The Antarctic Division’s program leader, Steve Nicol, said ocean acidification from rising carbon dioxide was real, and there was an urgent need to find out what effect it was going to have on sea life."
Krill are a kind of zooplankton. Most are about 1 to 2 cm (⅜–¾ in) long when adult; a few species reach 6 to 15 cm (2¼–6 in) (huge, no?).
For more info, see the article in The Age.