Tiny Creatures Are Big Players in Ocean Mixing

January 11, 2011
By: Jennifer Frey

Technion researchers have demonstrated that krill and jellyfish, as tiny as they may be, play a big role in ocean mixing.

Professors Alexander Leshansky and Leonid Pismen of the Faculty of Chemical Engineering have demonstrated that the currents caused by the swimming of these small fish contribute substantially to the mixing process, which is important for distributing heat, nutrients and gases throughout the ocean.

krill

Krill

Their work furthered the research of California Institute of Technology professors who surprised oceanographers by declaring that sea creatures were important in churning the ocean’s waters, and positing that small krill and copepods – migrating up from the ocean’s depths, actually drag more water with them than do larger marine animals.

Profs. Leshansky and Pismen verified their predecessors’ hypothesis by examining the hydrodynamics of currents created by creatures moving on their own versus those that are passively carried. “The large number of floating swimmers compensates for their tiny size,” said Prof. Leshansky.

The Technion research was highlighted in the November 10, 2010 issue of “Nature Physics.”

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel’s leading science and technology university. Home to the country’s first winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel’s high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with offices around the country.