Friday, February 4, 2011

They’re Coming!

Remember how I said there aren’t any crabs in Antarctica here? Well, I should have said there aren’t any crabs in Antarctica YET. That’s because there are crabs in the Southern Ocean (stone and king crabs) that are heading south-er. Yup, I’m sticking with that.

this could happen, people!
(photo of Antarctica from NOAA)

Researchers have determined that one of the limiting factors in keeping these crabs from Antarctic waters is the extremely cold temperatures (Hall and Thatje, 2010; reported here). Southern Ocean crabs tend to stay in waters above 0.5° C. But with the oceans warming, this barrier could be breached!

In fact, as early as 2003 there have been reports of Neolithodes capensis and Paralomis birsteini on the continental slope off Antarctica at depths ranging from 1,408 to 1,947 m (García Raso et al., 2005). P. birsteini were seen again in the Bellingshausen Sea (west of the Antarctic Peninsula) in January 2007 (Thatje et al., 2008). They were video recorded and sampled from depths between 1,123 and 1,304 m.

Paralomis birsteini being picked up on the slope for genetic analysis

These crabs are being painted as predatory gluttons, waiting to pounce on the shrimp, brittle stars, and other inverts of the Antarctic, and while I’d love to defend them, I can see that happening too. Fo’ sho’.

Polar Press:
García Raso, J. E., M. E. Manjón-Cabeza, A. Ramos, and I. Olasi.2005. New record of Lithodidae (Crustacea, Decapoda, Anomura) from the Antarctic (Bellingshausen Sea). Polar Biology 28:642-646.

Thatje, S., S. Hall, C. Hauton, C. Held, and P. Tyler. 2008. Encounter of lithodid crab Paralomis birsteini on the continental slope off Antarctica, sampled by ROV. Polar Biology 31: 1143-1148.

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