A warmer Antarctica makes a hospitable home for these crabs, endangering an entire ecosystem that has no defenses against them.
On a two-month voyage of the Swedish icebreaker Oden and U.S. research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, marine biologists collected digital images of hundreds of crabs moving closer to the shallow coastal waters that have been protected from predators with pincers for more than 40 million years. They are the same kind of deep-water crabs with big red claws that you might find at the seafood counter.
"Along the western Antarctica peninsula we have found large populations over like 30 miles of transects. It was quite impressive," said Sven Thatje, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southampton in England and chief scientist on the cruise.
Finding crabs on the bottom of the ocean isn't that big a deal. But here in Antarctica, crabs haven't lived in coastal waters for the past 40 million years. Until now, it's been too cold.