Whale and Krill Ecology in the Ocean

Whale and Krill Ecology in the Ocean
Antarctic Humpback Whale Feeding on Krill and a Closeup of the Tiny Creature

Now that people are harvesting krill from the ocean for human consumption, ecologists are concerned that we are competing with the whales that eat massive amounts of krill. For example, a blue whale will consume 35,000 pounds of krill in a day, and that would feed a lot of humans. This development requires a better understanding of whale and krill ecology and its effect on other ocean creatures.

Recent studies by Stanford University ecologists have shown that the oceans’ ecosystems are far more complex than we previously understood. For example, the whale consumption of krill is a significant part of the open ocean ecology. Krill contain large amounts of iron. When whales eat the krill, they defecate the iron back into the ocean, releasing it for other life forms.

Phytoplankton must have iron to survive, and they would die without the whales eating the krill. In turn, phytoplankton are critical to many other living things in the ocean, including the krill. For that reason, researchers concluded that more krill existed in the Antarctic Ocean before whaling killed 1.5 million baleen whales between 1910 and 1970. Whales are not just massive food consumers but also a significant factor in preserving life in the sea.

Feeding the human population requires an understanding that every creature has a role in the creation. As we understand whale and krill ecology, we see the delicate balance in the natural world. That evidence of God’s design work reminds us of the importance of biblically-based stewardship of the creation. That biblical perspective is vital to good science and applying science to solve human problems. It’s another example of the compatibility of science and faith. They are friends, not enemies, and must work together to benefit us all.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Wildlife magazine, June-July 2022, page 10 and Stanford.edu