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Fiddler crab migrating north, possibly from climate change

Date:
November 24, 2014
Source:
Marine Biological Laboratory
Summary:
The fiddler crab, Uca pugnax, has migrated nearly 50 miles north of its supposed natural range along the US East Coast. This may be another sign of climate change, experts say.
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David Johnson was standing in a salt marsh on the northern Massachusetts coast when he saw a fiddler crab, Uca pugnax, nearly 50 miles north of its supposed natural range. The migration north of this charismatic crab with the big, waving claw may be yet another sign of climate change. Johnson, then a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Ecosystems Center, has published his observations in the Journal of Crustacean Biology.

The fiddler crab is an attention-getting crustacean; the males have an oversized claw that they use to attract a mate and defend their territory. They can be found scuttling along beaches and marshes all along the U.S. East Coast -- except, it was previously thought, north of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is the range limit for several warm-water marine species.

Johnson hypothesizes that warmer ocean temperatures in 2012 and 2013, which were 1.3°C higher than the previous decade's average, allowed the crabs to move north. "Climate change is lowering the thermal barriers that kept species from moving toward the poles," he says. Johnson's paper documents the rapid movement of a warm-water species in the typically cold Gulf of Maine.

"When I first saw the crab, I thought, 'You're not supposed to be here,'" Johnson says. After the initial discovery, Johnson found the crabs as far north as Hampton, New Hampshire.

"In terms of climate science, the question used to be, is the climate changing? The answer is a resounding yes. The next question is, 'How will organisms respond?' We are now seeing that one way is by changes in where they are found," Johnson says.

"As the world's oceans continue to warm, we will continue to see climate-driven range expansions," he predicts. "The next question for scientists is, 'What is the impact of these new species on the ecosystems they move into?'"


Story Source:

Materials provided by Marine Biological Laboratory. Original written by Diana Kenney. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David Samuel Johnson. Fiddler on the roof: a northern range extension for the marsh fiddler crab Uca pugnax. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 2014; 34 (5): 671 DOI: 10.1163/1937240X-00002268

Cite This Page:

Marine Biological Laboratory. "Fiddler crab migrating north, possibly from climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141124092434.htm>.
Marine Biological Laboratory. (2014, November 24). Fiddler crab migrating north, possibly from climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141124092434.htm
Marine Biological Laboratory. "Fiddler crab migrating north, possibly from climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141124092434.htm (accessed May 27, 2024).

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