Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Killer crabs invade antarctic shallows

Warming water near Antarctica has big predatory crabs on the move, threatening soft animals that have been protected by the cold for millions of years.

King crabs die below 1 C, so the cold 0 C to -2 C Antarctic shallows were a safe home for sea lillies, brittle stars, giant ribbon worms and molluscs that are armoured only with thin, soft shells.

Since the 1950s, when records began, the average temperature of the ocean to the west of the Antarctic peninsula has gone up by 1ÂșC, and king crabs appear to be moving into shallower water. If this is true, climate change may soon claim a set of victims, the unprepared and under-protected soft animals used to being insulated from harm by the coldest ocean water.

Oh, for the sheltering cold.

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