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Maine lobster (Photo Credit: Roberto Rodriguez CC BY-SA 3.0)

Warmer waters changes lobsters into cannibals

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Monday, July 29, 2013, 05:00 (GMT + 9)

Cannibal lobsters have been caught on camera for the first time by an American scientist researching marine wildlife off the coast of Maine.

The increase in water temperature due to climate change and overfishing have apparently caused lobsters from the coast Maine to turn into cannibals, Noah Oppenheim, the scientist who conducted the research, believes, The Independent reports.

The researcher, a University of Maine graduate who set up a camera in the wild to record the action, was able to capture live footage of a lobster eviscerating a juvenile specimen alive. He was able to succeed where previous attempts have failed. In similar studies conducted in 1992, other fish would come for the bait.

Oppenheim’s experiment showed an unprecedented degree of cannibalism in the wild with repeated proof that showed that juveniles were 90 per cent more likely to be eaten by other lobsters than any other type of fish.

The scientist believes that the increasing temperature of sea waters is responsible for this phenomenon. Between 2002 and 2012 a temperature of 50.7 °F (10.39 °C) was recorded, well above the century average of 47.6 °F (8.76 °C).

“As the water temperatures elevate, lobsters both become more fecund,” told the scientist to James West of Climate Desk, and he added: “They reproduce more frequently and with larger broods and they grow more rapidly. If we enjoy eating lobsters perhaps other lobsters enjoy eating lobsters too.”

Several other factors can be causing this change in the crustacean’s eating habits such as overfishing of the lobsters natural predators such as cod, flounder, eels and seals and also herring bait being eaten by younger members of the species.

Despite this, it’s still not accurate to say the lobsters from Maine are habitual cannibals, based on this study alone.

Although the fishing industry recorded a 126 million lobster caught in 2012, this surplus of lobsters has meant the market price has decreased drastically with the pound costing only USD 2.72, the cheapest since the Great Depression.

According to scientists, the American lobster (Homarus americanus) has an uncertain future ahead. This is because it is a cold-blooded crustacean that grows bigger as the ocean waters turn warmer. As it grows bigger, it needs more oxygen and this makes it more prone to disease.

Lobsters are extremely social creatures that mate for life. However, they are known to attack each other in captivity. For this reason, they are kept with their claws tied.


By Gabriela Raffaele


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