Due to the increasing oceanic temperatures, Antarctica could be soon populated by king crabs.
Global warming is determining more and more animals to move or expand their territory. In recent years, one of the animals who did this is the king crab, which was observed living in the waters of Western Antarctica. According to scientists, the animal has not lived there for millions of years.
To the scientists’ surprise, the king crab, also known as Lithodidae, now settled on the shallow waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Moreover, the warm temperatures in Antarctica will now allow the creatures to climb up on the arctic continental shelf.
According to the new study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this is bad news for a large number of species from Antarctica. King crabs are able to crush shells, just like lobsters, sharks and other marine predators. The creatures from Antarctica will no have time to evolve a defensive mechanism that will allow them to escape the crab’s attacks.
If we take into account the number of small species from Antarctica, then the crab’s presence will not benefit the environment at all and it may even lead to the extinction of many animals. Richard Aronson, from the Florida Institute of Technology, said that Antarctica is different than any other marine community, in that is heavily populated but only by a small number of species.
He also noted that the waters of Antarctica would closely resemble the ancient seas that you would see at a museum of natural history. He explains that the marine communities have not changed much because the creatures living there do not have many predators. In fact, the entire continental shelf of Antarctica is populated by small marine animals that are either filter feeders or capturers of particles.
Aronson said that the most efficient predators in the region are invertebrates such as ribbon worms, starfish and some species of spiders. Therefore, if the king crab will come here, his dominance will be undisputed. All of the animals that have lived here peacefully for millions of years will have to face a new predator.
Long before global warming settled in, the king crabs were probably driven off the region by the ever declining arctic temperatures. This was millions of years ago, but now everything will rewind rapidly and determine the crabs to come back to Antarctica, according to Aronson.
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