Rich Aronson anticipates an invasion of king crabs to Antarctic waters

Marine scientist Rich Aronson says that our warming climate will allow king crabs to invade shallow Antarctic waters, where they’ll eat vast numbers of soft-shelled creatures. “The world will be a less rich place as this happens,” he said.

Rich Aronson: Up until now, it’s been too cold for crabs to manage to survive in Antarctica. But now, as the climate is warming, those barriers are coming down.

Rich Aronson is a marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Rich Aronson: And we can anticipate that if things go in the unfortunate direction that they’re going, they will have an enormous effect on the bottom communities living there.

Aronson told EarthSky that warming waters will probably allow predator king crabs to invade populations of soft-shelled creatures.

Rich Aronson: As the shallow waters warm up, those king crabs will come trotting up from deep water and invade those shallow environments. Likely, the first thing they will do is decimate the brittle stars that are there in enormous numbers.

Also, cold-adapted starfish, clams, and snails would have nowhere to escape.

Rich Aronson: If these crabs make it into shallow water environments – which they will if we don’t get a handle on global carbon emissions right now – they are going to homogenize the marine communities in Antarctica with communities around the world. The world will be a less rich place as this happens.

Our thanks to:
Rich Aronson
Dauphin Island Sea Lab
University of South Alabama
Dauphin Island, AL

Lindsay Patterson