Another Complex System!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 by Becca Stanley

During the LabVenture! program we talk about how the interactions between lobsters, herring, cod, humans, and copepods make up a complex system in the Gulf of Maine! Here is a quick peek at another complex system between phytoplankton, krill, and sea birds in the Southern Ocean (near Antarctica).


Scientists at University of California, Davis have discovered that when krill (small crustaceans) eat phytoplankton (plant like plankton), the phytoplankton releases a chemical signal that attracts krill-eating birds! Krill are high in iron, which is scarce in the Southern Ocean, but a necessary nutrient for phytoplankton.  Sea birds can’t absorb the iron very well, so most of the iron they get from the krill is returned to the ocean through sea bird waste, promoting phytoplankton growth!

What other species do you think may be a part of this complex system?

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