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Evidence suggests Antarctic crabs could be native
Date:7/4/2013

ecord of a crab in Antarctica is of one from the group Brachyura found on the shores of the South Orkney Islands in 1903. To date, 22 species of crab and lobster have been found in the Southern Ocean, 12 of which are King crabs found in Antarctic waters.

The first record of King crabs dates back to 1967 when an individual was recovered close to Scott Island north of the Ross Sea. The lack of data reflects the fact that very little deep water sampling has been done.

The distribution pattern, with two species being found only in Antarctica (including the one reported as invasive) and no records of them being found elsewhere, implies a long and enduring presence in the region. It would suggest they have had more than a few centuries to develop and evolve.

Lead author, Huw Griffiths, from BAS, said:

"These findings are important because, for the first time, we were able to piece together all available information to get a clearer understanding of the diversity and distribution of crabs in Antarctica. Many of these elusive deep-sea animals, previously thought to be invasive, have turned out to be uniquely Antarctic species."

Recent studies suggested King crabs would pose a serious risk to native fauna. Invertebrates such as molluscs were thought to be most at risk. But the team says there is strong evidence these crabs are mostly foragers and scavengers attracted to carrion.

The team concludes by recommending that a programme of repeated sampling of King crab distributions in Antarctic waters is conducted.


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Contact: Paul Seagrove
psea@bas.ac.uk
44-012-232-21414
British Antarctic Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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