Evolution in the Gulf of Maine

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Section 1 Evolution

Epizootic shell disease in a lobster from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution https://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/a-mysterious-disease-afflicts-lobster-shells/

Atlantic Lobster

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 [1]. 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)[2]. 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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Atlantic Cod

The Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, is native to the Gulf of Maine and the main predator in that ecosystem. Its role in the food web came as a result of geologic events, like the opening of the Arctic passage; the creation of the Panama Isthmus; and the creation of continental shelves around the newly formed Iceland, that increased the availability and diversity of food, but maintained the cod’s unique traits.
While the American lobster’s greatest threat is implications of climate change, the Atlantic cod already has a vulnerable (threatened) status due to human consumption and overfishing. Cod was the main source of sustenance and income for early settlers until its abundance fell and lobster took over the fishing industry.

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Section 2 Microbiome

Illustration of Alexandrium fundyense, a toxic dinoflagellate that causes red tides in the Gulf of Maine. https://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/mmg_disp.jsp?med_id=55547&from=

The Gulf of Maine, which is surrounded by northeastern states of the U.S., and Canadian provinces (like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), is full of an abundant and diverse microbiome. Previous studies described microbial organisms’ interactions with larger organisms like copepods and fish to be similar to a food chain, while recent studies (Li et al, 2011) indicate a much more complex food web exists. Of the planktonic microorganisms


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Edited by [Madi Hamilton], student of Joan Slonczewski for BIOL 116 Information in Living Systems, 2019, Kenyon College.