Lobsters Have Increasingly Turned to Cannibalism Due to Rising Water Temperatures

American marine biologists are now discovering that a combination of climate change, rising water temperatures, and overfishing have altered the lifestyle of the lobster, turning it into a cannibal.

Lobsters are known to attack and eat each other while in captivity, but Noah Oppenheim, a scientist studying the marine ecosystems off the coast of Maine, has recorded an unprecedented degree of cannibalism in the wild. Oppenheim was the first to capture images of lobster cannibalism in the wild on camera by setting up a camera trap using a juvenille lobster as bait.

Similar experiments were conducted in 1992, and showed that fish would come into the trap to grab the snack. Oppenheimer's camera, however, showed that now, an adult lobster would swoop in and "eviscerate" the younger crustacean. Repeat experiments showed that the juveniles were 90 percent more likely to be eaten by fellow lobsters than any type of fish.

Oppenheim believes that the primary reason for this is rising water temperatures. The period of 2002 to 2012 recorded an average water temperature of 50.7 degrees, which is well above the century average of 47.6 degrees. Oppenheim explains:

“As the water temperatures elevate, lobsters both become more fecund. 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.”

Of course there are other factors that also come into play, such as overfishing killing off the lobster's natural predators and herring bate used in lobster traps being stolen by younger members of the species that are too young to be caught.

The overabundance of lobsters is also hurting local fisherman. In 2012, the industry recorded its biggest year for lobster fishing. At the same time, the price dropped to $2.72 per pound - the lowest since the Great Depression.