Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

King crab distributions limited by temperature in the Southern Ocean

Date:
November 8, 2010
Source:
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Summary:
Invasions of voracious predatory crabs due to global warming could threaten the unique continental-shelf ecosystems of Antarctica, according to newly published findings.

The king crab species Paralomis elongata from Bouvet Island, Southern Ocean.
Credit: Image courtesy of National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Invasions of voracious predatory crabs due to global warming could threaten the unique continental-shelf ecosystems of Antarctica, according to newly published findings.

Related Articles


"King crabs are ecologically important predators and form the basis of economically significant commercial fisheries," said Dr Sven Thatje, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES), which is based at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.

Thatje and graduate student Sally Hall studied how water temperature influences the distributions of king crab species in the Southern Ocean, which has some of the coldest waters on Earth. The results appear in the journal Polar Biology.

King crabs are cold blooded, their body temperature being determined largely by that of the surrounding environment. Although many of them live in cold, deep-sea habitats, experiments have shown that their larvae fail to mature in water temperatures below around half a degree Celsius, even after only brief exposure.

"We tested the hypothesis that the king crab species of the Southern Ocean only thrive above a critical minimum temperature and that it is this thermal barrier that determines their biogeographical distributions in the Southern Ocean," said Thatje.

To do this, Thatje and Hall carefully studied the distribution of seventeen species of king crab living at depths between around 500 and 1600 metres in the Southern Ocean. They collated data frompublished records, museum collections, commercial fishing records, and reports from scientific research cruises. They then compared these records to water temperatures measured at a range of relevant depths and geographical latitudes.

Consistent with their hypothesis, they found that king crabs occur mostly at locations where the polar water temperature is relatively warm. The coldest waters in which king crabshave been found are between 0.4 and 0.5C in the Ross Sea, suggesting that this indeed represents a thermal barrier limiting king crab distributions.

In addition, the records showed that only two species are endemic to waters south of 60 degrees South, suggesting that particular physiological and reproductive adaptations are required for life in the most extreme environments.

The researchers found that gaps in king crab distributions largely coincide with regions of low water temperature, although there are some anomalous absences yet to be explained.

Their findings imply that even relatively small increases in water temperature due to global warming could lead to king crabs moving into new areas.

"Rapidly increasing water temperatures observed along the West Antarctic Peninsula could allow king crabs to spread from the slope of the peninsula to the continental shelf itself," explained Hall.

This could have considerable ecological consequences. King crabs are voracious predators that crush and then feed on their prey, but they and potentially competing predators such as sharks and rays and other predatory crustaceans are largely absent on the high-Antarctic continental shelves.

"The worry is that the sudden appearance of a new predator with few competitors could threaten isolated shelf communities such as those of the Bellingshausen Sea on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula," said Hall.

The researchers believe that their study provides a baseline against which future changes in the distribution of king crabs expected under global warming can be compared.

The study was supported by the Total Foundation (Abyss2100), the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (MarBEF) project, and by the Natural Environment Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sally Hall, Sven Thatje. Temperature-driven biogeography of the deep-sea family Lithodidae (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura) in the Southern Ocean. Polar Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1007/s00300-010-0890-0

Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "King crab distributions limited by temperature in the Southern Ocean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101115623.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). (2010, November 8). King crab distributions limited by temperature in the Southern Ocean. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101115623.htm
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "King crab distributions limited by temperature in the Southern Ocean." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101115623.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins