I’ve never been much of a fan of lobster meat. I like it for the first few bites, especially dipped in butter, but then the meat gets way too rich and I get sick of it. While I might not be a fan of the meat, I do think lobsters are pretty cool animals, and it’s about time I wrote about them on here.
There are lots of different species of lobster, but I’m going to focus on the American lobster, as it is the species most people are probably familiar with. American lobsters live off the east coast of North America, from Labrador to North Carolina. They can be found in shallow or deep water, though they are more common in deeper areas. Lobsters like rocky areas, where there are lots of places for them to hide. They are nocturnal, spending the day inside their burrows, and coming out at night to feed.
American lobsters are the largest of all lobsters, and are also the owners of the title World’s Heaviest Arthropod. They can reach maximum lengths of 64 cm, and weigh over 20 kg. Most American lobsters are a greenish blue colour, but there are numerous colour morphs, such as bright blue, yellow, orange or albino. You might be familiar with bright red lobsters — but live lobsters are usually not that colour. The pigments that give lobsters their normal colour break down when they are boiled, resulting in the bright red, ready-to-eat colour.
American lobsters have ten legs, four pairs of which are small used for moving. The fifth pair are the most fun, extending into great big claws that are supposed to have the juiciest meat. You may not have noticed when you were digging into a lobster, but the two claws are asymmetrical. One is bigger than the other, and has rounded bumps; the smaller claw has sharp, small teeth. The functions of the two claws are quite different: one is used for crushing (the bigger claw), and the other is used for cutting.
Lobsters start out as very small animals, weighing less than a tenth of gram upon hatching. They grow through a series of moults, which begin with the lobster reabsorbing the minerals that harden the shell. This makes the shell soft, so that the lobster can break through it. The softness of the shell also allows the lobster to take in water, which makes it swell in size. The new shell then hardens, and the moult is complete. A lobster can grow 10-15% in size during each moult. To reach the minimum legal catch size, American lobsters go through 25-27 moults.
Moulting serves another very important function for lobsters: females can only mate within 48 hours of a moult. The females lay their eggs between a month and fifteen months after fertilization. during this time, sperm is stored inside the females, and the eggs are fertilized as they leave the females’ bodies. Lobsters can lay between 3,000 and 75,000 eggs, depending on their body size. After the eggs have been laid, female lobsters carry them under their tails until hatching, for about ten to eleven months. The survival rate of young lobsters is very small, with only one in one thousand reaching the juvenile stage.
Though lobsters are a popular food animal, they are currently not threatened. This is in part due to the strict regulations that protect lobsters from overfishing. Lobsters under 8.3 cm must released, and in some areas lobsters over 13 cm cannot be caught, to keep breeding males alive. If a lobster is caught carrying eggs, a notch is put in her tail, and notched animals cannot be sold or caught. These regulations ensure a large breeding population, key to the survival of lobsters.
While there are many tragic stories about overfishing in our oceans, it seems like lobsters are doing pretty well, which is great news!