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Climate Change Brings Antarctic Crab Invasion April 15, 2011
King crab
“They are coming from the deep, somewhere between 6,000 to 9,000 feet down.” — James McClintock
Thousands, possibly millions, of king crabs are marching up the seabed slopes around Antarctica, invading the coastal waters of the icy continent for the first time in possibly millions of years, according to researchers.

Polar and marine biologist James McClintock of the University of Alabama at Birmingham says since the mass migration was first detected in 2007, it has increased significantly under the influence of climate change.

The shell-crushing crabs threaten the population of soft-shell clams and other marine creatures that produce disease-fighting compounds currently being investigated by scientists.

“I am very concerned that species could disappear, and we could lose a cure to a disease,” McClintock warned.

Antarctic clams, snails and brittle stars developed soft shells as they adapted to life in coastal Antarctica.

They have soft shells and have never had to fight shell-crushing predators before. “You can take an Antarctic clam and crush it with your hands,” McClintock said.

He believes they could become the main prey for the invading crabs.

Photo: File