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Antarctic Invasion

February 20, 2008

Global climate change could open the Antarctic up to predators it hasn’t seen in millions of years.


Antarctica’s melting boundaries. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Organisms on islands often evolve in the absence of predators for millions of years. If predators are re-introduced by humans, these organisms are ill-equipped to defend themselves and sometimes go extinct. Well, it turns out that life in the Antarctic shelf has been similarly isolated by being too cold. Many marine organisms thrived here in the cold for millions of years in the absence of top seafloor predators. But according to marine ecologist Sven Thatje of the University of Southampton in England, global warming could once again open up the high Antarctic to top predators such as sharks and crabs.

SVEN THATJE (University of Southampton):
Species from the lower latitudes will press into the Antarctic environment because suddenly they’ll be able to live there.

He predicts that invading predators will have a major impact on the Antarctic ecosystem in the future. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.