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When it is Hot, Lobsters Turn to Cannibalism [VIDEO]

Update Date: Jul 29, 2013 04:18 PM EDT
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The heat can often make people delusional, especially on days when the sun is unbearable. Fortunately for people, staying in an air-conditioned place can be soothing. For animals in the wild, however, they learn to deal with the heat in some very interesting ways. According to a new report, scientists discovered that warmer temperatures along with some other factors lead to cannibalism in lobsters.

The team of marine biologists was focused on studying Maine's marine ecosystems. They wanted to evaluate the effects of warmer waters, overfishing and climate changes on the interactions between the marine animals. To their dismay, researcher Noah Oppenheim who is a graduate student at the University of Maine was able to capture a video of cannibalism in the lobsters of the region. Oppenheim was using a juvenile lobster as bait to attract other fish in the waters. While filming the scene, the bait attracted an adult lobster instead of fish. The adult lobster quickly came up and snatched the baby lobster.

"It has never been noted in the literature, previous to my experiments, that individual lobsters will consume others in the wild," Oppenheim said according to CBC News.

Even though lobsters have been known to eat each other or attack one another, these behaviors have been noted when the lobsters were in small spaces, particularly in captivity. This video was the first one to reveal that cannibalism occurs in the wild. In order to test whether or not the first incident was an accident, Oppenheim repeated the experiment. He found that when he placed juvenile lobsters in the water as bait, 90 percent of them were eaten by adult lobsters in comparison to other types of fish. The researchers believe that the rising temperatures during this time of the year could be responsible for this phenomenon.

"As the water temperatures elevate, lobsters become more fecund," Oppenheim explained. "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."

Despite catching cannibalism in the wild on camera, other experts do not believe that this series of experiments correctly display the reality that exists in the waters. According to Marc Lanteigne who is a part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, he stated that tying up juvenile lobsters and leaving them vulnerable in the water have made the process of catching them and eating them easy for adult lobsters. If the baby lobsters were not tied up, they would have the chance of hiding in rocks and gravel once they see a predator nearby. These evasion tactics could make them less desirable for adult lobsters in the wild. Another expert, Carl Allen who first started fishing lobsters at the ripe age of seven, stated that cannibalism is nothing new.

"The stock is at a level now, is about the highest levels they've ever been, that we've ever noticed," he stated. "There's more of them so you might be noticing it [cannibalism] more because there're more lobsters on the bottom."

With an overproduction of lobsters, the food sources could be more limited, leading to cannibalism. Furthermore, the spike in lobster population has also affected local fisheries who can no longer sell lobster at a high price due to the fact that there are so many lobsters caught at one time. The price for lobsters has now fallen to $2.72 per pound, which is the lowest rate since the Great Depression according to the Independent. In the meantime, the lobster population should start to dwindle and a new study looking for cannibalism under different circumstances could reveal more about these marine animals.

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