/kril/, n., pl. krill.
any of the small, pelagic, shrimplike crustaceans of the family Euphausiidae, eaten as food by certain whales.
[1905-10; < Norw kril young fry (of fish)]

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Any member of the crustacean suborder Euphausiacea, comprising shrimplike animals that live in the open sea.

The name also refers to the genus Euphausia within the suborder and sometimes to a single species, E. superba. The described species, numbering more than 80, range in size from about 0.25 to 2 in. (8–60 mm). Most have bioluminescent organs on the lower side, making them visible at night. They are an important source of food for various fishes, birds, and whales, particularly blue and fin whales. Krill may occur in vast swarms at the ocean surface, where they feed at night, and at depths greater than about 6,000 ft (2,000 m). Because of their vast numbers and nutritive qualities (they are an especially rich source of vitamin A), krill have been regarded as a potential source of food for humans.

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      any member of the crustacean order Euphausiacea or of the genus Euphausia within that suborder. Euphausiids are shrimplike marine animals that are pelagic in habit (i.e., they live in the open sea). They differ from true shrimp (order Decapoda) in that their gills are located on the swimming legs, and fewer legs are modified for feeding. They range in size from 8 to 60 mm (about 1/4 to 2 inches). Eighty-two species have been described. Most have bioluminescent (bioluminescence) organs (photophores) on the lower side, making them visible at night. They are of great importance in certain regions of the sea as food for various fishes, birds, and whales, particularly blue whales and finback whales. Krill occur in vast swarms that may gather near the ocean surface or at depths greater than 2,000 m (about 6,600 feet).

      The body of E. superba is about five centimetres long and translucent, with reddish brown blotches. The swimming larvae pass through nine stages of development. Males mature in about 22 months, females in about 25 months. During a spawning period of about five and a half months the eggs are shed at a depth of about 225 m (740 feet). The krill larvae gradually move toward the surface as they develop, feeding on microscopic organisms.

      From January to April swarms of E. superba in the Antarctic Ocean may reach concentrations of 20 kg per cubic metre (about 35 pounds per cubic yard). Because of their vast numbers and nutritive qualities, krill have been regarded by ecologists as a potential food source for humans, raising concerns about the potential impact on penguin, whale, and fish populations. They are an especially rich source of vitamin A.

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Universalium. 2010.

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