Do krill have sex?


animation: Lisa Roberts
Sydney 2010

data: So Kawaguchi, Steve Nicol, John Kirkwood,
Rob King, Andrew Constable, Graeme Ewing
(Australian Antarctic Division scientists)

original sound: Graeme Ewing
Tasmania 2010

2020 sound: Dougald McLaren
Tasmania 2019


This animation is a component of the paper,
Ocean-bottom krill sex
Published: 2011 Journal of Plankton Research.
DOI: 10.1093/plankt/FBR006.
Authors: Kawaguchi, S., Kilpatrick, R., Roberts, L.,
King, R.A. and Nicol, S.

Full text

12 April 2011 The Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts,
Los Angeles-based network of resources for artists and arts organizations:
22 March 2011 Eco/Art/Scot/Land, a platform for research and practice,
Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland:
Artists and Scientists

8 March 2011 Nature Education, Nature Publishing Group, Cambridge, MA, USA:
Antarctic Krill Love Dance

7 March 2011 Creature Cast, The unexpected world of animals,
Casey Dunn Lab, Brown University, Rhode Island, USA:
Antarctic Krill Love Dance

25 Feb 2011 Digital Journal, Canada:
Secret sex life of Antarctic krill revealed for the first time

24 Feb 2011 The Southern Ocean Fried Science Network:
Deep sea sex: even krill are doing it!

21 Feb 2011 ABC TV:
Krill sex caught on camera

Feb 2011 Australian Antarctic Division:
21 Animation of krill mating in the Southern Ocean


That krill have sex at all may be news to many people.
That they do it on the ocean floor is new scientific knowledge.
I was invited to co-author a paper to help scientists explain
the new observation that they captured
on an underwater video system.
I was given a copy of the video
and traced what I could see of the mating sequence:
two males chasing and embracing a female.
The video recording was very blurry!

Lead scientist So Kawaguchi explained what is known
about the mating behaviour of shrimp,
which is believed to relate to that of krill.
He sent me scientific papers to read
and annotated my first attempts to draw the action.

I played with prawns that I bought from the local fish shop
to test how the 'flex' position works.

The more I came to understand,
the more confidently I could draw.

Now I could draw the key frames for the whole sequence.

After much drawing
and repeated viewing of the video,
I understood the action
enough to imagine myself dancing it.
Now I was ready to animate!

I used 'Flash' software to make the animation
and began by tracing drawings into a timeline to create key frames.
Motion between the key frames was achieved
by manipulating the 'tweening' tool
and by frame-by-frame hand-drawing (using a stylus and drawing tablet).
Tracings I had made from the scientists video were added
to connect the detailed diagrams with the fleeting moment of observation.

A lot of time was spent tweaking the timing of the movement.
I wanted a visual rhythm to match the music.
Graeme Ewing had improvised a melody on his guitar
while contemplating the motion of benthic (sea floor) life forms,
particularly that of crinoids.
The relationship between krill and crinoids is unknown
except that they may sometimes share the ocean bottom habitat.