Crabs, which have long been known for their low maintenance, will thrive in warmer conditions as the world warms, according to a new study.
The new research, published in the journal Nature, found that the sea level rise that will occur as temperatures rise by an average of 1.8 inches (4 centimeters) by the end of the century will likely cause the crabs to thrive.
“Crabs will be more active in warmer water and they’re already getting into deeper water,” said lead author John R. Tewes, a marine ecologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
“If we’re not careful, they could be pushed out to the ocean floor and into the atmosphere.”
Sea level rise has long been a concern for the crabs.
Since about the early 20th century, crabs have been on the decline, according the study.
They’ve been in decline because of pollution and overfishing, which has led to the depletion of their habitats, the scientists wrote.
They now depend on global warming to keep them alive, the study said.
The crabs are especially vulnerable to sea level rises as the planet warms.
“In the next century, sea level will rise by as much as 1.5 inches (5 centimeters) on average, and this will be the worst in 50,000 years,” said study co-author David C. Miller, a professor of marine biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Even with a 1.3 inch (4.5 centimeters)-average rise in global mean sea level, we will still see a 40 percent increase in the number of crabs in the world.”
Miller said he believes sea level changes will occur slowly, but they could quickly cause crabs to be pushed deeper into the ocean.
“The sea will go through some dramatic changes that could make them go extinct, and there’s not a lot we can do about that,” Miller said.
But the crabs will likely not be the only species to adapt to warmer water.
“It’s possible that many of the crabs already present in warmer waters could become extinct, because of climate change,” Miller added.
“There are a number of species that are adapting to climate change in some of their habitat, and some of those species may not survive.”
Scientists don’t know what the impacts will be on marine life.
But Tewe said they are confident the crabs and other marine species will adapt.
“They’ll be fine, they’ll just be doing better in the long run,” he said.