Quirks & Quarks

Antarctic Eden Threatened by Invading Crabs

The Antarctic shelf has water temperatures below 0C and hosts a unique ecosystem protected by the cold, but as waters warm around the continent predatory King crabs could move in.

Ecosystem protected by cold will be vulnerable as warming waters allow predators in.

The Antarctic shelf's frigid waters host a unique ecosystem protected by cold water from active predators - for now. (US National Science Foundation)
The Antarctic Shelf, an area of shallow water around the Antarctic continent, hosts a unique and beautiful ecosystem of filter feeders that are largely protected from predators by the extreme frigidity of the waters. Active predators can't survive in water that's below -1 degree Celsius.

Dr. Richard Aronson, Professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology, thinks that this ecosystem has been protected for millions of years.

But he's found evidence that warming water around the Antarctic are opening the door for voracious King crabs to move from deeper waters onto the shelf, and potentially devastate the defenceless species on the Antarctic shelf.

Related Links

Paper in PNAS
- US National Science Foundation release
Livescience story