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Climate Change Makes the King Crabs a Threat to the Ecosystem of the Seabed in Antarctica
International, 10/1/2015

According to a new study led by Florida Institute of Technology, published in 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it states that due to increased ocean temperatures west of the Antarctic Peninsula could cause the king crab populations move to shallow continental shelf habitats from its current offshore in the coming decades.

King crabs can soon become big predators in the marine ecosystems of Antarctica where they have not played a significant role in tens of millions of years.

The authors of this study found no impediments to prevent the arrival of shellfish predators if the water becomes hot enough.

According to Richard Aronson, main author of the study, this would have a big impact because other creatures on the continental shelf have evolved without the destruction of predatory crustaceans; and if crabs move there they could radically restructure the ecosystem.

In the 2010-11 Antarctic summer, in research funded by the 'National Science Foundation' (NSF), the team used a sledge with underwater camera to document a breeding population of crabs on the continental slope of Marguerite Bay in the western Antarctic Peninsula.

According to postdoctoral researcher and co-author Kathryn Smith, of the Florida Institute of Technology, the overall effect of migration of king crabs into shallower waters would be to make the ecosystems in other parts of the world much more similar to the unique Antarctic ecosystem, a process that ecologists call biotic homogenization.

The researchers conclude that such changes would fundamentally alter the ecosystem of the seabed in Antarctica, and reduce the diversity of marine ecosystems worldwide.


Topic(s):    Biodiversity