Project Information
Collaborative Research: Climate Change and Predatory Invasion of the Antarctic Benthos
Start Date:
End Date:
Elevated temperatures and ocean acidification are both threatening the Southern Ocean. The effects of these environmental changes are poorly understood, but preliminary data suggest that they are driving a biological invasion. Specifically, large populations of skeleton-crushing king crabs, Paralomis birsteini, have been detected off Marguerite Bay on the West Antarctic Peninsula. These crabs appear to be invading the continental shelf region where benthic communities have evolved in the absence of such top-predators. Thus, this invasion could result in a wholesale restructuring of the Antarctic benthic ecosystem. The proposed work seeks to document this invasion and better understand the effects of the introduction of P. birsteini on the ecology of this region. A towed underwater vehicle will be used to photographically image communities, and communities with and without P. birsteini will be compared quantitatively. Additionally, crabs will trapped and various aspects of their morphology and physiology will be assessed. This research is unique in that it will document a biological invasion in real-time and it will therefore enhance our general understandings of the drivers of invasion and resilience in biological communities. Results will be widely disseminated through publications as well as through presentations at national and international meetings. In addition, raw data will be made available through open-access databases. This project will support the research and training of undergraduate and graduate students and will foster an international collaboration with British scientists. Researchers on this project will participate in outreach thorough the development of K-12 curricular materials.
Person Role
Aronson, Richard Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1141877
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Deployment Type
NBP1310 ship expedition
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
  1. Ellis, D. S., Cipro, C. V. Z., Ogletree, C. A., Smith, K. E., & Aronson, R. B. (2018). A 50-year retrospective of persistent organic pollutants in the fat and eggs of penguins of the Southern Ocean. Environmental Pollution, 241, 155–163. (doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2018.05.003)
  2. Amsler, M. O., Smith, K. E., McClintock, J. B., Singh, H., Thatje, S., Vos, S. C., … Aronson, R. B. (2015). In situ observations of a possible skate nursery off the western Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of Fish Biology, 86(6), 1867–1872. (doi:10.1111/jfb.12679)
  3. Aronson, R. B., Frederich, M., Price, R., & Thatje, S. (2014). Prospects for the return of shell-crushing crabs to Antarctica. Journal of Biogeography, 42(1), 1–7. (doi:10.1111/jbi.12414)
  4. Dietl, G. P., Nagel-Myers, J., & Aronson, R. B. (2018). Indirect effects of climate change altered the cannibalistic behaviour of shell-drilling gastropods in Antarctica during the Eocene. Royal Society Open Science, 5(10), 181446. (doi:10.1098/rsos.181446)
  5. Dickinson, G. H., Bejerano, S., Salvador, T., Makdisi, C., Patel, S., Long, W. C., … Aronson, R. B. (2021). Ocean acidification alters properties of the exoskeleton in adult Tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi. Journal of Experimental Biology, 224(3). (doi:10.1242/jeb.232819)
  6. Aronson, R. B., Smith, K. E., Vos, S. C., McClintock, J. B., Amsler, M. O., Moksnes, P.-O., … Thatje, S. (2015). No barrier to emergence of bathyal king crabs on the Antarctic shelf. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(42), 12997–13002. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1513962112)
  7. Steffel, B. V., Smith, K. E., Dickinson, G. H., Flannery, J. A., Baran, K. A., Rosen, M. N., … Aronson, R. B. (2019). Characterization of the exoskeleton of the Antarctic king crab Paralomis birsteini. Invertebrate Biology, 138(2). (doi:10.1111/ivb.12246)
  8. Smith, K. E., Aronson, R. B., Steffel, B. V., Amsler, M. O., Thatje, S., Singh, H., … McClintock, J. B. (2017). Climate change and the threat of novel marine predators in Antarctica. Ecosphere, 8(11). (doi:10.1002/ecs2.2017)
  9. Smith, K. E., Aronson, R. B., Thatje, S., Lovrich, G. A., Amsler, M. O., Steffel, B. V., & McClintock, J. B. (2017). Biology of the king crab Paralomis birsteini on the continental slope off the western Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology, 40(11), 2313–2322. (doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2145-9)
  10. Thatje, S., Smith, K. E., McClintock, J. B., & Aronson, R. B. (2020). From deep to shallow seas: Antarctic king crab on the move. Ecology, 101(11). (doi:10.1002/ecy.3125)

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