for National Geographic News
Antarctica's native marine life is under threat from invasions of king crabs and other predators, researchers said today.
As Earth's oceans heat up because of global warming, king crabs will likely expand into waters that were previously too chilly for them to survive.
"They're poised to invade the shallower waters," said Richard Aronson of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Once established in their new habitat, the crabs will decimate native species that are unable to cope with strong, fast-moving predators that can crush their shells, Aronson said.
"Now is the time to take action to prevent them having an impact," Aronson said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Massachusetts.
"We know what these crabs are going to do if they get into the shallow waters," he added.
"It's like watching a train wreck."
(Related news: "Giant Crab 'Red Army' Invades Norway" [March 9, 2004].)
Sharks could also move into the Antarctic if the region warms several degrees, according to another study.
Cheryl Wilga and Brad Seibel, of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, analyzed sharks' metabolism and predicted that the predators could survive in oceans off Antarctica.
If that happens, the scientists predict that shrimp, ribbon worms, and brittle stars will likely be the most vulnerable.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES