DAO 95:1-8 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02349

Bait and the susceptibility of American lobsters Homarus americanus to epizootic shell disease

N. David Bethoney1,*, Kevin D. E. Stokesbury1, Bradley G. Stevens2, Mark A. Altabet1

1University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02744, USA
2University of Maryland Eastern Shore Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, Princess Anne, Maryland 21853, USA

ABSTRACT: Shell disease (SD) has been observed in lobster populations for almost a hundred years, but recently, rates of an epizootic form of shell disease (ESD) have increased in the southern New England (USA) area. A large proportion of fish in the diet of American lobsters Homarus americanus has been linked to increased rates of SD. Therefore, the use of fish as lobster bait may be linked to increased ESD rates in lobsters. Lobsters from the western portion of Martha’s Vineyard, MA (41°N, 71°W), were randomly divided into 3 groups of 16 and exposed to dietary treatments (100% herring; 48% crab, 48% blue mussel and 4% plant matter; or 50% herring, 24% crab, 24% mussel, 2% plant matter) to determine if lobster tissue δ15N levels reflected diet. The results of the feeding experiment confirmed that differences in diet are observed in the δ15N levels of lobster muscle tissue. The δ15N levels of tissue samples from 175 wild lobsters with varying degrees of ESD were unrelated to ESD severity but did indicate lobsters were eating large amounts of fish (bait). This result does not support the speculation that fish used as bait is contributing to ESD outbreaks in portions of the southern New England area.


KEY WORDS: Decapod crustacean · Feeding behaviour · Diet · δ15N


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Cite this article as: Bethoney ND, Stokesbury KDE, Stevens BG, Altabet MA (2011) Bait and the susceptibility of American lobsters Homarus americanus to epizootic shell disease. Dis Aquat Org 95:1-8. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02349

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