Crustacean Cannibals: Lobsters Devour Smaller Individuals (Video)

First Posted: Jul 26, 2013 01:01 PM EDT

Lobsters are known for their tasty, fleshy meat and bright red shells when cooked. As we continue to pull them from coastal waters, though, this species is changing. A combination of climate change, warming waters and overfishing has transformed these creatures into crustacean cannibals, according to The Independent.

The new study involved tethering young lobsters to the base of infrared cameras beneath the waters in Maine. There, the scientists could observe, day and night, what happened to these crustaceans. During the day, the researchers saw a few fish and crabs preying on the tethered lobsters. The night, though, was another matter entirely. The scientists found that almost 100 percent of the tethered lobsters were eaten by other lobsters.

That's not to say that this research shows that all wild lobsters are cannibal--or even that they usually employ this behavior. While scientists have noted in the past that lobsters will eat each other when crowded in tanks or traps, these aren't the conditions that meet the crustaceans in the wild. By that same token, it's not likely that lobsters will meet with a tethered, smaller lobster, according to Herald News.

Assuming the lobsters have started eating each other in the wild, though, what might be causing it? The researchers believe that the main reason could be rising water temperatures.

"As the water temperatures elevate, lobsters both become more fecund," said Noah Oppenheim, one of the researchers, in an interview with Climate Desk. "They reproduce more frequently and with larger broods and they grow more rapidly. If we enjoyed eating lobsters perhaps other lobsters enjoy eating lobsters too."

In addition to the warmer temperatures, there's also overfishing that's playing a role. As lobster populations increase, their natural predators are being killed off. This means that there are even more crustaceans in the water, leading to an overabundance that's driving down lobster prices.

Want to learn more about the new research? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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