A huge swarms of small crustaceans, a.k.a. krill, is flooding the northern shore of Eilat. Almost all the creatures are dead or dying.
Assaf Zvuloni, the Nature and Parks Authority Ecologist in Eilat, said that “this phenomenon has been observed before but with much less intensity. The cause of this phenomenon is unknown at this time, but elsewhere around the world, such as in Oregon, the krill have experienced massive mortality caused by a ciliate parasite. Extreme changes in temperature, or an increase in nutrient concentrations can also be factors that affect krill, as was the case in southern Baja-California, Mexico.”
Krill are considered an important trophic level connection – near the bottom of the food chain. They feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton, yet also are the main source of food for many larger animals.
In the Southern Ocean, one species, the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, makes up an estimated biomass of around 379,000,000 tonnes, making it among the species with the largest total biomass. Over half of this biomass is eaten by whales, seals, penguins, squid, and fish each year.
Most krill species display large daily vertical migrations, thus providing food for predators near the surface at night and in deeper waters during the day.