King Crabs Invading Antarctica, Threatening Antarctica’s Marine Ecosystem

Crabs that haven’t been in Antarctic waters for millions of years could return to wreak havoc because of global warming, researchers say.


Researchers concluded that if king crabs were to migrate to shallower waters, they would initiate a process known as biotic homogenization – where two distinct communities become progressively similar and ultimately less diverse.

Due to the increasing oceanic temperatures, Antarctica could be soon populated by king crabs.

According to biologist Richard Aronson from the Florida Institute of Technology, sea stars, urchins and snails that are indigenous to the icy region do not possess special defenses to prevent the king crabs from preying on them, where the predators use their shell crushing abilities.

The full study “No Barrier to Emergence of Bathyal King Crabs on the Antarctic Shelf”, was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A study found that shell-crushing crabs have started invading the continent.

In the 2010-2011 Antarctic summer (which endures from October to February, the inverse of summer in the Northern half of the globe), scientists utilized a camera sled towed by the NSF research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer to record surprisingly a regenerative populace of lord crab on the mainland incline off Marguerite Bay.

The arrival would have a huge impact on local ecosystem as king crabs feed on such kind of soft organisms that are commonly found on Antarctic shelf. They mostly live on the bottom of the ocean in deep waters. Because of their large size and the taste of their meat, many species are widely caught and sold as food, the most common being the red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus. The study revealed that their population was steady and reproducing. These temperature fluctuations, according to an worldwide group of scientists, threaten species that thrive in frigid waters with negligible variation in seasonal sea temperatures.


“The only way to test the hypothesis that the crabs are expanding their depth-range is to track their movements through long-term monitoring”, study co-author James McClintock, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in the release.

King Crab