Scientists Find King Crabs Growing in Antarctic Seas

Posted September 7th, 2011 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
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Scientists say climate change has led to the growing presence of king crabs in the waters off the Antarctic peninsula, which could dramatically alter its ecosystem.

A team of researchers at the University of Hawaii used a remote-controlled unmanned submarine to scan an underwater basin off the peninsula dubbed Palmer Deep. They discovered 42 king crabs living about 850 meters deep at temperatures around 1.4 degrees Celsius, including a female carrying eggs.

The waters in the Antarctic peninsula become warmer at lower depths, and it is believed this species of king crab can easily tolerate this temperature.

The researchers believe the king crabs colonized Palmer's Deep about 30 to 40 years ago, as the waters began to warm, and could number as many as 1.5 million.

King crabs are voracious crushers of sea floor animals, and dig into the sea floor to feast on worms and other tiny animals. The scientists from the University of Hawaii say there was an absence of native plant and animal life within the crab-dwelling zone, compared to the abundance of sea life found 100 meters above the zone.