King Crab Antarctica
September 13, 2011 by staff
Crabs are expanding their underwater realms in shelf areas of Antarctica and devouring entire ecosystems in the process.
Sea lilies, starfish, sea urchins and other echinoderms species had thrived for 14 million years in the cold depths of the Antarctic platform, free of skeleton-crushing predators. But warmer weather is allowing the crab (Neolithodes yaldwyni) to go into a feeding frenzy in a new territory.
A recent study by Palmer Deep Basin, off West Antarctica, found that the crabs had spread in the area, forming large populations of breeding and the annihilation of the echinoderms in their wake. The research was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“This is a very interesting finding for several reasons,” said Craig Smith, University of Hawaii at Manoa, in a press release.
“First, it provides evidence that the king crabs can now spread through the platform of the Antarctic, and reproduce at least some Antarctic shelf waters. It also suggests that these predatory king crabs cause a significant reduction biodiversity of the seabed, and invading Antarctic habitats as they seem to be eating all echinoderms deep Palmer, “said Smith.
The study found that the crabs had moved over 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the continental shelf and established a colony of about 1.5 million people in an area of ??146 square kilometers, 850 meters (56 square miles, 930 yards) below the surface.
Researchers estimate that within the next two decades as the polar waters continue to warm rapidly, crabs may be able to colonize the western Antarctic Peninsula shelf at depths of 400 to 600 meters (approximately 1,300 to 2,000 feet). They worry that the crab can devastate wildlife prepared there.
King crabs become not only more deadly but more deadly hunters, because they act as “ecosystem engineers”, digging in soft sediments of the seafloor to hunt animals they find. In this way, alter the basic structure of bottom habitat.
The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Hawaii, Duke University, Ghent University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Hamilton College.
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