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Climate change may be starving Maine’s baby lobsters

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Despite the ecological and economic importance of lobsters to Maine, there is still much we don’t know about how they interact with their environment during their earliest life stages.

Researchers at the University of Maine and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences are trying to figure out what baby lobsters eat in order to make sure they are better prepared for climate change as many of their main food sources start to decline.

In recent years, the number of juvenile lobsters compared with adult lobsters has declined, suggesting that lobsters are dying off in the early stages of life. Richard Wahle, director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine and one of the lead scientists on the research project, explained that lobsters go through different stages where they “metamorphose sort of like a butterfly.”

Somewhere between the first stage and the final stage, monitoring has shown a significant number of those little lobsters are dying.

At the same time, researchers have noticed major changes in the zooplankton population in the Gulf of Maine due to its warming waters. That includes the decline in some species like calanus finmarchicus, which Wahle said are like “little butterballs” that feed everything from herring to whales.

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