General lobster anatomy.
|Lobsters are sexed by
examining the first set of appendages behind the walkers. The male (gonopeds)
are bony while the same appendages on the female are feathery. In both
cases, you have to look closely because sometimes they are folded up tightly
under the body. With a little practice, you can also tell by looking at
the tail. On females the tail is relatively broad compared to the male's
to accomodate the egg mass.
A female. |
Lobster blood is
a clear fluid. When the animal is boiled, the blood turns to an opaque
whitish gel. It has no discernible flavor and is perfectly safe to eat.
If a wounded lobster is hauled to the surface, it may
start to bleed. Returning it to the sea bottom is the best recourse since
the water pressure will help stop the bleeding. If the animal is of legal
size, it can be placed back in the trap and the trap reset, to be hauled
again at a later date.
This animal was taken from the trap still holding
one of its own claws that it appears to have removed itself. In over
20 years of fishing, the captain said he's only seen this three times. |
Lobsters can regenerate legs,
claws, and antennae. In fact they can amputate their own claws and legs
(autotomy) to escape danger. The term 'amputate' can be in the passive
sense as well. I've seen a lobster spontaneously drop a claw for no apparent
Berried females carry thousands of eggs attached to
their swimmerets. Depending on water temperatures, the eggs will remain
attached for about a year on average. Only .1% of the eggs will make
it over six weeks after being dropped.
Lobsters molt (shed
their shells) to grow. They secrete enzymes that soften the shell and
connective shell joints. The shell spilts up the back and the creature
backs out leaving it behind...including the membrane that covered the
eyes. They will increase their size by about 20% at every molt. By the
time a lobster is of legal size, it will have molted about 20-25 times,
averaging 4-5 molts a year. After a molt the animal is vulnerable because
the new shell is very soft. It will hide among the rocks on the bottom
for 6-8 weeks until its shell hardens enough to offer some protection.
Lobster larva will molt about six times while still
in the egg. After they are released from the mother's swimmerettes and
hatch, the larva will float freely in the water column and molt several
more times before taking the form that we recognize as a lobster. At
this point they may be only 1/4" in length.
Lobsters exhibit 'handedness' . Some animals will have
the crusher claw on the right side while others will have it on the left.
Lobsters may come in a variety of colors besides the
usual blue-green, including blue, yellow, red, and white. Some even come
in two colors, having half of their shell one color and the other half
a totally different color. Of these only the white ones (true albinos)
don't turn red when cooked.
Just about as yellow as a lobster can get.
Here's one in blue (photo courtesy of D. Cowan).
The Joker. The odd thing about this animal is that
the cephalothorax is all one [natural] color while the rest of the animal
is symmetrically different. Even its mouth parts were normal-colored on
the right, and orange on the left. He now lives at Maine State Aquarium in Booth Bay.
Claw chaos. These claws were collected over the
last three years. This kind of deformity has been recorded as far back
as the 1800's. Pictures don't do these justice. Unless you can turn them
around in your hand, you can't fully appreciate the wierd morphology (the
one at the upper right, particularly).
The left (circled) gonoped of this male is severely
deformed. Animals displaying this condition emerged in 1998. In over 25
years taking lobster, the captain has never seen it before. It's cause
is a matter of speculation. Even early in the 1999 season, animals have
been found with this deformity.
Phil hauled this one in July '09. It's 100% blue. He actually caught it twice.
The first time he threw it back because it's a short. The second time he called for permission to take it. It now lives
with the Joker in Booth Bay.
This animal looks like its half male, half female.
Among other things, lobsters
eat crabs, sea stars, sea urchins. They are not by nature
cannibalistic, except when held in crowded conditions (traps, pounds,
etc.). Even with banded claws, it's still not unusual to find partially
eaten animals in the live-tank when it's emptied.
The nervous system of a lobster is decentralized and
has been likened to that of a grasshopper.
One lobster caught just off shore was released and
recaught by the same fisherman 24 hours later - and 3 nautical miles
out at sea!
Diane Cowan has been studying and tagging baby lobster
that hide under rocks in shallow water along the shore during very low
tides. As of 7/21/97, she has tagged 5,000 of the little nippers. Be
sure to check out her site at the The Lobster Conservancy , it has tons
of material on lobsters. The author also conducts surveys for TLC along
the New Hampshire coast and in Kittery.
A cute little nipper. This guy was so small he fell
out of the trap through the bars. He'll still get your attention if he