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"Crustacean Invasion" -- The Discovery Files

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A Florida Institute of Technology biologist has new research that finds predatory crabs poised to return to warming Antarctic waters and disrupt the primeval marine communities that have lived there for millions of years.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Feeling the Pinch

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: open ocean) The shallow waters of Antarctica's continental shelf; marine life here has prospered unscathed by predators who normally thrive in more temperate and tropical digs. But climate change could be ushering in a potential invasion of predators: King crabs, that from biologist Richard Aronson of the Florida Institute of Technology. He finds the crabs poised to return to warming Antarctic waters and disrupt the primeval marine communities that have lived there for millions of years.

In the past five decades, sea-surface temperature in the West Antarctic peninsula has risen 1.8 degrees making it one of the fastest-warming ocean areas in the world. Aronson points out that the predatory crabs are already on the move sometimes unwittingly helped along by (Sound effect: ship) ship traffic that unloads ballast tanks into the southern oceans and introduces non-native larvae from all over the world.

These crabs will eat almost any hard-shelled prey. Aronson says if they make it to the Antarctic shelf, they'll likely threaten seafloor communities there, which are unique in the world.

He's planning two oceanographic excursions through 2015 to monitor and chart the crustacean invasion.

I'd like to tag along in a steamer full of drawn butter.

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