Ecology

But the Butter's Melted

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Science  13 Mar 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5920, pp. 1406
DOI: 10.1126/science.323.5920.1406b

American lobsters (Homarus americanus) are iconic representatives of North America's northeastern Atlantic Ocean. The abundance of American lobster has experienced severe swings, but the cause of changes in their population is unknown. Recently the lobster fishery in southern New England has collapsed, while at the same time lobster populations in the Gulf of Maine have expanded massively. Wahle et al. use a time series analysis to create a larval settlement index that could predict the number of near-harvestable clawed lobsters. Their findings suggest that the way lobster populations vary significantly over time may be due to the combined effects of shell disease and a decline in the settlement of larvae. Because lobster larvae are typically transported over great distances before settlement, local outbreaks of shell disease cannot solely explain population demographic changes. Being better able to predict population density fluctuations and developing strategies to counteract predicted declines will be important in assessing the future viability of lobster fisheries. — LMZ

Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 376, 185 (2009).

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