Friday, November 12, 2010

King Crabs Invading

Invasive species come into areas by numerous means, most often as a result of some sort of human intervention be it accidental or on purpose. An example of this can be seen with the Brown Tree Snakes’ invasion of Guam. Navy ships coming from other south pacific islands picked up the snakes in their ballasts later deposited on Guam. These snakes then multiplied very quickly and decimated the island’s bird population. In New York City the European Starling was introduced to Central Park as a tribute to Shakespeare, as the bird was mentioned in his work, Henry IV. Now there are roughly 200 million starlings scattered over much of North America. Now there is a new human-influenced way by which species may start to invade: Global Warming.

The King Crab which is a noted voracious and aggressive predator. Scientists from Southampton University’s School of Ocean and Earth Science have been testing a hypothesis that the king crab species of the Southern Ocean, while limited in range by water temperature, are starting to see an expansion in that range. As water temperatures slowly warm in the Southern Ocean, these crabs and other such limited predators may expand further south.

As King Crabs are largely absent on the Antarctic continental shelves, this “could threaten isolated shelf communities such as those of the Bellingshausen Sea on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula”, said Sally Hall of Southampton University . At the very least, it will be interesting to see what new creatures are attracted to Antarctica as ocean temperatures warm, and how they will alter the ecosystem.

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