Warming waters lead to cannibalistic lobsters

Climate Cast
Every Thursday, MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.
MPR Illustration

Species are not evolving fast enough to cope with climate change, according to a new study from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

In the past, most species have been able to adapt to changes of less than 1° C over 1 million years, but the planet is warming much faster than that now. Scientists predict the earth to warm by 4° C by 2100.

One example of a species being thrust into unfamiliar territory is the case of the cannibalistic lobsters.

Thanks to warming waters and overfishing of their predators, an explosion of the lobster population has led to younger lobsters being eaten by older ones.

Lobster cannibalism usually only occurs in captivity (which is why the lobsters you see in tanks have rubber bands on their claws), but now it's occurring in the wild.

"Water temperatures on the Gulf of Maine have increased significantly over the last 10-20 years, and this has both increased the fecundity and the growth rates of lobsters. And it has forced [their predators] offshore, away from the areas where juvenile lobsters settle and grow," said Noah Oppenheim, University of Maine researcher. "These two factors have combined to produce higher population abundance in the Gulf of Maine than ever before. When you have more lobsters encountering each other, we have found that cannibalism is the shocking and dramatic result."

MPR News is Member Supported

What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.