10. Lobsters are a super food. Foster’s Down East Clambake in York, ME (Img Cred: Boston University, Kristen M. Stivers)
10. Lobsters are a super food. Lobster meat contains a rich source of lean protein. A one-cup serving of cooked meat contains 129 calories, 1.25 g of fat and 27.6 g of protein. Lobsters also contain omega-3 fatty acids which help with brain function and may lower risk of heart disease and other inflammatory diseases. Of course, that goes out the window once you drown the meat in butter or mayonnaise! Learn how to eat lobster here.
9. Lobsters come in many colors. Blue lobster caught in Massachusetts. (Img Cred: Wikipedia, Adam Field)
9. Lobsters come in many colors. “Red as a lobster” refers only to cooked lobster. Lobsters have red pigments bound to shell proteins that generally provide them with a brownish color in the wild. The red pigment is called astaxanthin, and it remains stable when exposed to heat. While the shell proteins break down in a boiling pot, astaxanthin holds strong and makes the cooked lobster bright red. However, live lobsters can have color variations such as yellow or blue. New England Aquarium researchers feed their lobsters special diets to keep their shells white. The lack of pigment in their “dietary lobsters” helps them study shell disease.
8. What size lobster can you catch? Buddy Poland, Maine Lobsterman (Img Cred: Boston University, Hillary Hoffman)
8. What size lobster can you catch? In Maine, for example, a “legal” lobster has a midsection, or carapace, that measures between 3 ¼ inches and 5 inches. The one-pound lobsters you order at a restaurant are about five to seven years old. Fishermen who violate the rules or even try to mutilate the lobster to disguise the size face stiff fines. Maine’s Department of Marine Resources set the rules to ensure that each lobster caught for sale has had at least one opportunity to mate, and that larger lobsters are left alone to keep the population robust.
7. Northern lobsters are booming. Live Maine Lobsters (Img Cred: Boston University, Hillary Hoffman)
7. Northern lobsters are booming. The populations in Maine and George’s Bank are thriving, while Southern counterparts are in trouble. The Department of Marine Resources reported that Maine lobstermen reeled in nearly 94.7 million pounds of lobster in 2010, 12 million pounds more than the previous year. The lobster population boom might be problematic. Fishermen are not only over-fishing lobster predators like cod, but they are also feeding lobsters with bait so they reach legal size sooner. Such fishing practices give lobster an artificial advantage, throwing off the natural balance of the ocean ecosystem.
6. Southern lobsters struggle with disease. Baby white lobster with shell disease (Img Cred: Flickr, (Alex))
6. Southern lobsters struggle with disease. South of Cape Cod, lobsters exhibit problems with lobster shell disease. Bacteria infect the lobster shell, form black spots and holes, dissolve the calcium in their shells and make them ugly and unappetizing. The shell rot weakens the lobster’s immune system, warps shell, and hinders molting and growth. If the shell rots completely, the disease kills the lobster. While researchers know the disease is not contagious between the lobsters, the ultimate cause of the disease remains unclear.
5. Lobsters don’t mate for life. Do not disturb the lobsters (Img Cred: Wikipedia, Phrontis)
5. Lobsters don’t mate for life. Contrary to popular opinion, lobsters cohabitate for a short period of time while the female lobster sheds her shell in a process called molting. She approaches a male lobster shortly before she molts and he keeps and protects her in his lair while she sheds and regrows her shell. About a half hour after she sheds, the fully-shelled male lobster gently turns over her floppy, naked body and inseminates her with a sperm packet called a spermatophore. She remains in his dwelling for a few days until she regenerates a new shell.
4. Females fertilize eggs later. Female lobster with eggs (Img Cred: Wikipedia, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
4. Females fertilize eggs later. A female can store sperm packets in her body for up to two years after she mates with a male. She fertilizes her eggs externally. The eggs remain protected under her folded tail for up to a year. Lobsters can carry between 8,000 – 100,000 eggs! (Larger lobsters carry more eggs). The female lobster flicks and releases her eggs away from her tail when they are ready to hatch. However, only 0.1% of these eggs reach adulthood.
3. Lobsters communicate by smell Lobster pheromones travel easily through water. Some of these pheromones are released in their urine while fighting. Lobsters smell the pheromones by flicking antennules located in the front of their heads. By sensing these urine pheromones, lobsters can identify social and biological characteristics like dominance and molting state. Such social and biological characteristics also aid with mate selection.
2. Lobsters have teeth in their stomachs. Live Maine lobster (Img Cred: Boston University, Hillary Hoffman)
2. Lobsters have teeth in their stomachs. Lobsters crush their food with their larger “crusher” claw, pull food apart with their smaller “ripper” claw, and “taste” with the sensors on their first set of legs, before they swallow their food. They chew their food with a set of teeth, called a gastric mill, which resemble human molars. The mill is composed of three teeth that squeeze, cut, and grind their food.
1. Lobsters don’t age. Lobster molting still from video (Img Cred: Flickr, CaptJoe06)
1. Lobsters don’t age. Larger lobsters equate to older lobsters; they grow each time they molt. Cape Tip Fish and Market in Truro, Mass. recently caught and released a 22-pound lobster that they estimated to be 80 years old. Lobsters show few signs of aging and their potential lifespan is unknown. In most animals, genetic material degrades after each cell division, which causes aging and slows growth. Lobsters, however, have a rich source of the enzyme telomerase which protects their genetic material during cell division. Abundant stores of telomerase exist in multiple types of lobster tissue, so the lobster keeps growing. Some researchers speculate that lobsters’ rich source of telomerase may help them regenerate lost limbs. (Special thanks to Joey Ciamataro from the GoodMorningGlouster blog for photo permission).