Giant Crabs Invade Antarctica (Video)

It has been many millions of years since giant King Crabs have been seen around Antarctica. The waters were simply too frigid for the crabs, many of which are over four feet long, to venture into. Cue up human-caused climate change, and Viola!: The return of the giant crabs. New Scientist has this cool video of the advancing crustaceans, and an explanation of why this is superbly bad news for everyone but idea-starved B-movie screenwriters ...Here's NS:

Huge crabs more than a metre across have invaded the Antarctic abyss, wiped out the local wildlife and now threaten to ruin ecosystems that have evolved over 14 million years. Three years ago, researchers predicted that as the deep waters of the Southern Ocean warmed, king crabs would invade Antarctica within 100 years.

But video taken by a remotely operated submersible shows that more than a million Neolithodes yaldwyni have already colonised Palmer Deep, a basin that forms a hollow in the Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf. They are laying waste to the landscape. Video footage taken by the submersible shows how the crabs prod, probe, gash and puncture delicate sediments with the tips of their long legs. "This is likely to alter sediment processes, such as the rate at which organic matter is buried, which will affect the diversity of animal communities living in the sediments," says Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, whose team discovered the scarlet invaders.

In my previous report on the marauding crabs, I noted that "This is a great example of how a seemingly minor shift caused by climate change can have wide-ranging impacts on the natural environment. Water temperatures have risen one degree Fahrenheit since 1950 (air temperatures in the region have risen an in-no-way-minor 11 degrees F) -- making the waters just warm enough for the crabs to survive."

Indeed. Welcome to the new normal.

Tags: Animals | Global Climate Change


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