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Crab invasion: The impending attack on Antarctica

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In the remote expanses of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, an invasion is underway: an army of king crabs, formidable in size and voracity, is encroaching upon the last crab-free ecosystem on Earth.

Driven by shifting ocean currents and warming seas, which are caused by fossil-fuel use, these relentless crustaceans are disrupting the delicate balance within diverse seafloor ecosystems that have flourished for at least 16 million years, if not more.

Can the Southern Ocean’s starfish, sea spiders, sea cucumbers, ribbon worms, and other creatures without pinchers, claws, hard shells, or other crab-fighting defenses develop adaptations and defenses to resist a king crab invasion?

the crab-free southern ocean
This Minute Earth video, written by Dr. Virginia Schutte, describes how vulnerable Southern Ocean marine life “tends to be barely-protectedβ€”squishy, even. These animals don’t need armor because there’s nothing around to crush them.”

Why hasn’t this arthropod army invaded these unprotected animals before? What roles do magnesium and warming waters play in the coming years? And what can be done for these squishy seafloor animals? A bit more from the National Science Foundation in 2015:

“Some predators, such as the Antarctic toothfish and Weddell and elephant seals, could feed on the crabs if they were to colonize the shallower waters. But the vulnerable smaller creatures that currently live in the shallows would remain easy prey for the crabs.

“The overall effect of the migration of king crabs to shallower waters, explained FIT postdoctoral scientist and co-author Kathryn Smith, would be to make the currently unique Antarctic ecosystem much more like ecosystems in other areas of the globe.

“Such changes, the researchers conclude, would fundamentally alter the Antarctic sea-floor ecosystem and diminish the diversity of marine ecosystems globally.”

crabs invade
Watch these related videos next:
β€’ Feather stars and their animal invaders
β€’ The β€œsecret world” below the Antarctic ice sheet
β€’ The sea cucumber’s multipurpose rear end

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