Evolution in the Gulf of Maine

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Atlantic lobster

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Section 1 Evolution

The Atlantic lobster, Homarus americanus, has been a vital organism for the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf of Maine. Data from fossils suggests lobsters have been present since the Cretaceous period, when they were more diverse than during the Tertiary period (Tshudy 2003). That diversity increased again later. Recent fluctuations in the populations of H. americanus have been predominantly affected by climate change and the fishing industry. The Gulf of Maine measured tempuratures at the sea surface have significantly increased in recent years from global warming, and while it is currently causing an increase in the population of Atlantic lobsters, any further warming will have adverse effects on the species (Greene 2016). Another reason for the current increase in abundance of lobsters is the decrease of Atlantic cod from climate change and overfishing (Gulf of Maine Research Institute 2012). One of the potential threats is epizootic shell disease, which causes shell erosion and appears more prevalently from northern regions compared to the south (Glenn 2006). The lobster fishing industry has been heavily regulated like the requirement of a minimum length from the eye socket to the beginning of the tail of 3.25 inches to allow a little less than 50% of lobsters to reproduce before being caught (Gulf of Maine Research Institute 2012). Nevertheless, these regulations cannot compensate for the large percentage of lobsters that are taken from their habitat, which has led to a historical decrease in the abundance of lobsters in the Gulf of Maine.
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Edited by [Madi Hamilton], student of Joan Slonczewski for BIOL 116 Information in Living Systems, 2019, Kenyon College.