Lobsters Going Cannibal, Eating the Little Ones

Infrared cameras record the attacks in Gulf of Maine
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2012 4:30 PM CST
Warm Weather Turning Lobsters Into Cannibals
Lobsters have become cannibals in the Gulf of Maine.   (Shutterstock)

Lobsters are so overpopulating the Gulf of Maine that they've discovered a tasty new meal: each other. Researchers from the University of Maine have found that young lobsters tethered by rope to the ocean floor—and watched with an infrared camera—are almost always eaten by bigger lobsters rather than their usual predator fish, Reuters reports. "We've got the lobsters feeding back on themselves just because they're so abundant," says Richard Wahle, the study's lead researcher. "It's never been observed just out in the open like this."

Lobsters are known to eat each other when trapped in tight spaces—hence the rubber bands on their claws in seafood restaurant tanks. But no one had seen lobsters become cannibals in the wild before. Why the new behavior? Wahle says climate change has warmed the Gulf of Maine and boosted the lobster population significantly—from 23 million pounds in 1981 to 104 million last year. Plus overfishing has helped kill off lobster predators like halibut and cod. "I was blown away," says a young researcher, reports the Portland Press Herald. "I had no idea this was coming—absolutely no idea." (More lobster stories.)

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