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Global warming could invite sharks to Antarctica

Antarctica
Global warming could bring ferocious sharks to Antarctic waters, threatening a unique marine life shielded from predators by frigid conditions for millions of years, biologists warn.

Biologists gathered here for the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science warned that the return of predators to Antarctica could prove devastating to its underwater ecosystem.

Antarctica's surrounding waters remain too cold for sharks and other fish capable of crushing shellfish similar to the mollusks living in the vast continent's seas, said University of Rhode Island biology professor Cheryl Wilga.

"As a result, the Antarctic seafloor has been dominated by relatively soft-bodied, slow-moving invertebrates, just as in ancient oceans prior to the evolution of shell-crushing predators," she told a news conference Friday on the sidelines of the conference.

But global warming has already pushed temperatures up by one to two degrees in the past 50 years, and the waters could become hospitable to sharks within the next 100 years, she said.

"The water only needs to remain above freezing year round for it to become habitable to some sharks, and at the rate we're going, that could happen this century," Wilga said.

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