Climate change and breeding migration in the Christmas Island red crab

Monday 21 October 2013
Christmas Island Red Crab. Photo by Allison Shaw

Current climate models project changes in both temperature and precipitation patterns across the globe in the coming years. Migratory species, which move to take advantage of seasonal climate patterns, are likely to be affected by these changes. The timing of the annual Christmas Island red crab breeding migration is closely related to the amount of rain that falls during a ‘migration window’ period prior to potential egg release dates, which is in turn related to the Southern Oscillation Index, an atmospheric El Niño- Southern Oscillation Index. As reproduction in this species is conditional on successful migration, major changes in migration patterns could have detrimental consequences for the survival of the species.

The study was undertaken by Allison Shaw while undertaking a PhD at Princeton, now a Visiting Fellow in the Kokko Lab; and co-author Kathryn Kelly from the University of Washington.

The work was supported by grants from the National Geographic/Waitt Institute for Discovery, NSF (No. DGE-0646086), and NASA (NNX08AR30G).

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