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Researchers study temperature impacts on lobster larvae

Scientists study the crustaceans in their tiny larval stage to understand how temperature influences where they choose to move and live at the bottom of the ocean.

BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — For most of us, our knowledge of a lobster's life begins when they’re large enough to eat, and that’s usually at least seven years into their lives.

Researchers with the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), along with partners from Hood College, the University of New England, and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, work from June through October each year since 2018 to catch and study the crustaceans in their tiny larval stage to understand how temperature influences where they choose to move and live at the bottom of the ocean.

Jesica Waller is the director of the division of biological monitoring and assessment within DMR and has been excited to dive into the work. That work begins with dragging a net across the top of the ocean's surface to catch the nearly invisible larvae.

"It just feels like a little mystery that you're solving every time," Waller said, describing each time her team checks their nets. 

Back in the lab, Waller's team wants to know how temperature affects lobsters in their youth.

"So, we know that lobsters are really sensitive to temperature," Waller explained. "It really impacts both their growth, their development, their behavior, where they choose to live in the water column, and, we think, ultimately where they choose to settle."

Within the last two decades, the Gulf of Maine has been warming faster than 99 percent of the rest of the world’s oceans, according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. This research could help scientists and fishermen alike understand if climate change pushes lobster populations to cooler waters.

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