Friday, September 9, 2011

A Crabday for my penguin homies

Remember when I was confused here about no crabs in Antarctica, then discovered here that they were, in fact, moving in on that icey continental shelf? Well add this next crab to the list of crusty invaders:

Neolithodes yaldwyni

up close and personal with Neolithodes yaldwyni

My friends Jon and Kasey sent me a new article out about this Crabday's king crab species making its way towards Antarctica (where it had previously only been found in the Ross Sea). This time the large king crabs were found in the Palmer Deep, a basin 120 km onto the arctic shelf. N. yaldwyni is even reproducing: scientists are estimating 1.5 million king crabs within the basin of Palmer Deep!

a lovely lady with her healthy clutch

Just as reported with earlier king and stone crab finds, these crabs are moving in toward Antarctica with the warming water temperatures. N. yaldwyni can't tolerate temperatures lower than 1.4 degrees C, which is currently holding the crabs at 850 m depth (it's warmer the deeper you get. Go figure.) 

gotta love the striking red of these beautiful lithodids!

Wherever these new crabs have roamed (as their crab tracks are visible!), there's been reduced biodiversity for the benthic invertebrates. Animals, like the resident echinoderms, are unused to the crushing claws of these new predators and have no chance! But they're not necessarily the top predators, with another newly discovered king crab species being found in the belly of an Antarctic toothfish!

two N. yaldwyni walking all over like they own the place

Read the paper:
Smith, C. R., L. J. Grange, D. L. Honig, L. Naudts, B. Huber, L. Guidi, and E. Domack. 2011. A large population of king crabs in Palmer Deep on the west Antarctic Peninsula shelf and potential invasive impacts. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (published online): doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1496

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