The Heat Is Online

Sharks Move Toward Antarctica

Global warming 'may soon wipe out marine life in Antarctica


The Hindu News, Feb. 18, 2008


London (PTI): Antarctica's marine life will be wiped out by an invasion of sharks, crabs and other predators if global warming continues, scientists have warned.


"Sharks are going to arrive in Antarctica as long as the warming trend continues, a bit more slowly than crabs -- crabs are going to get there first. But once they do get there they are capable of eating the organisms that live there," Prof Cheryl Wilga said.


Prof Wilga of the University of Rhode Island in the United States is the leader of the international team that is currently studying the effects of climate change in the continent.


Animals that live on the seafloor of Antarctica are some of the strangest creatures on Earth.


According to the scientists, the arrival of sharks and shell-crushing bony fishes would lead to dramatic changes in the number and proportions of species found there. Shrimp, ribbon worms and brittle stars are likely to be the most vulnerable to population declines.


Dr Sven Thatje of the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton in Britain said that animals living in shallow water in Antarctica were unique on Earth because they evolved in a very cold environment over tens of millions of years.


"In the course of a process we call Antarctic cooling that started about 40 million years ago, all major seafloor predators such as sharks and crabs went extinct in Antarctica as they were not able to cope with the extreme conditions," the 'BBC News' portal quoted the team member as saying.


The researchers have called for urgent local and global actions to protect this last pristine environment. "We have to act now in Antarctica as elsewhere to save the diversity of the planet," co-researcher Dr Richard Aronson of Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory in Alabama said.