Clues Emerge in Lobster Shell Disease

The disease causes black spots that often turn into deep holes in lobster's outer shells. Photo: Barbara Somers, Rhode Island Sea Grant & the University of Rhode Island reports on studies being conducted by the New England Aquarium to determine the root causes of lobster shell disease, which has become prevalent in lobsters south of Cape Cod, including those found in the waters of Buzzards Bay, Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound.

Lobster shell disease is caused by bacteria that grows on the shell of the crustacean, turning it mottled black. The disease does not affect the meat of the lobster, but renders the animal unmarketable.

Biologists are now trying to find out if warmer water temperatures make the lobsters more susceptible to the disease, and whether pollution and even the use of herring as lobster-trap bait play a role.

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