Researchers from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, have drawn together 200 years' worth of oceanographic knowledge to investigate the distribution of a notorious deep-sea giant – the king crab.
The results, published this week in the Journal of Biogeography, reveal temperature as a driving force behind the speciation and radiation of a major seafloor predator; globally, and over tens of millions of years of Earth's history.
In deep seas all over the world, around 100 species of king crabs live largely undiscovered. The fraction that we have found includes some weird and wonderful examples - Paralomis seagrantii has its eight walking legs and claws entirely covered in long fur-like setae; while related group Lithodes megacanthus grows to lengths of 1.5 metres, and has 15-20-cm long defensive spines covering its body.
At temperatures of around 1- 4ºC, these crabs thrive in some of the colder waters on Earth; living and growing very slowly, probably to very old ages. Only in the cooler water towards the poles are king crabs found near the water surface – though temperatures found around some parts of the Antarctic (below 1ºC) are too extreme for their survival.
A paper, published 15 years ago in Nature is thought to show that king crabs evolved from shell-bound hermit crabs - similar to the familiar shoreline animals. Soft-bodied, but shell-free intermediate forms are found only in the shallow waters off Japan, Alaska, and Western Canada.
By looking at 200 years' worth of records from scientific cruises and museum collections, Sally Hall and Sven Thatje from the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science at the National Oceanography Centre discovered that the soft-bodied forms can live at temperatures about ten degrees higher than the hard-bodied forms, but that both groups can only reproduce when temperature is between 1ºC up to 13-15ºC.
"It seems that most shallow-water representatives of this family are trapped in the coastal regions of the North Pacific because the higher sea surface temperatures further south prevent them from reproducing successfully and spreading," said Dr Thatje.
In order to leave this geographic bottleneck and spread around the world, the shallow water ancestors of current deep-sea groups had to go deep and adapt to the challenges of life in the deep sea. The process of adaptation to constant low temperatures (1-4ºC) prevailing in the deep sea seems to have narrowed the temperature tolerance range of the crabs where they have emerged to the surface waters in the Southern Hemisphere. With differences of only a couple of degrees in temperature affecting the distribution of the king crab, it is difficult to predict the consequences of range expansion in the warming waters around the Antarctic Peninsular region.
King crabs are of great commercial value, and fisheries are established in high latitude regions of both hemispheres. "Understanding their evolutionary history and ecology is key to supporting sustainable fisheries of these creatures," said research student Sally Hall: "Recent range extensions of king crabs into Antarctica, as well as that of the red king crab Paralithodes camtchaticus in the Barents Sea and along the coast off Norway emphasise the responsiveness of this group to rapid climate change."
This study elucidates temperature as a driving force behind the speciation and radiation of a major seafloor predator globally and over tens of millions of years of Earth's history.
The study has been supported by the National Environment Research Council (UK) through a PhD studentship to Sally Hall, and a Research Grant from the Royal Society awarded to Sven Thatje.
For more information contact the NOCS Press Officer Dr Rory Howlett on +44 (0)23 8059 8490 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images are available from the NOCS Press Office (Tel. 023 8059 6100).Scientist contacts
The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton is the UK's focus for ocean science. It is one of the world's leading institutions devoted to research, teaching and technology development in ocean and earth science. Over 500 research scientists, lecturing, support and seagoing staff are based at the centre's purpose-built waterside campus in Southampton along with over 700 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton is a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council. The NERC royal research ships RRS James Cook and RRS Discovery are based at NOCS as is the National Marine Equipment Pool which includes Autosub and Isis, two of the world's deepest diving research vehicles.
Dr. Rory Howlett | EurekAlert!
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology