Feeding ecology and diet

Krill are generally surface feeders, and phytoplankton is an important component of their diet; it must grow where light is available for photosynthesis. Other elements of the diet, depending on the species, may include algae, diatoms, and cope-pods.

Krill filter their food from the water as they swim, using a "feeding basket" formed from bristles on their thoracic legs. As water is squeezed through the basket, the food is left behind, and the krill use their legs to convey it forward to their mouth.

An unusual adaptation seen in krill is the ability to reduce their size in response to scarcity of food. Unlike most other crustaceans, krill continue to molt throughout their lifespan. Under austere conditions, they may produce a new exoskele-

ton of a smaller size and shrink, using some of their body protein (they do not maintain significant fat stores) for fuel.

Krill are key organisms in the ecology of the oceans, providing an important food source not only for whales but also for other marine mammals, fishes, cephalopods, and sea birds. Their concentration in large swarms provides ample nutrition even for very large animals such as whales. Krill are critical in translating the food yield of plankton further up the food chain.

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