The enormous repetitive Antarctic krill genome reveals environmental adaptations and population insights

Cell. 2023 Mar 16;186(6):1279-1294.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.02.005. Epub 2023 Mar 2.


Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is Earth's most abundant wild animal, and its enormous biomass is vital to the Southern Ocean ecosystem. Here, we report a 48.01-Gb chromosome-level Antarctic krill genome, whose large genome size appears to have resulted from inter-genic transposable element expansions. Our assembly reveals the molecular architecture of the Antarctic krill circadian clock and uncovers expanded gene families associated with molting and energy metabolism, providing insights into adaptations to the cold and highly seasonal Antarctic environment. Population-level genome re-sequencing from four geographical sites around the Antarctic continent reveals no clear population structure but highlights natural selection associated with environmental variables. An apparent drastic reduction in krill population size 10 mya and a subsequent rebound 100 thousand years ago coincides with climate change events. Our findings uncover the genomic basis of Antarctic krill adaptations to the Southern Ocean and provide valuable resources for future Antarctic research.

Keywords: Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba); chromosome-level genome; circadian clock; environmental adaptation; giant genome size; population demography; population differentiation; repeat expansions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Ecosystem
  • Euphausiacea* / genetics
  • Euphausiacea* / physiology
  • Genome*
  • Genomics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA Transposable Elements