American Lobster

800px-Yellow-lobster

Profile

The American lobster is a large invertebrate living in the waters off north-eastern United States and Canada. These animals have eight legs for walking and a pair of claws. These claws are two different sizes. On is large and used for crushing shells of prey, and the other claw is smaller and is used for tearing flesh. If a lobster loses a leg or a claw, this is no real problem. The animal will just grow back the lost limb. As you can tell by the range map below, These animals do not go very far from land. This is because they cannot swim very well and must stay on the ocean floor. Away from land it gets too deep for these animals to survive. If you want to see a video about these animals, click here.

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Coloring

American lobsters can come in many different colors depending on their genetics. Although some people think lobsters are a deep red, this is only the way they look when cooked, and they are rarely if ever that bright red in the wild. Normal colors include yellow, brown, olive-green, and a mix of those colors. Sometimes the lobsters have a reddish tint to them as well. Occasionally, but very rarely, American lobsters can be blue like the one in the picture below. Only about one in every three million lobsters are blue, and most are a paler blue than in the picture. Even rarer than this, some lobsters may be two colors! Only about one in every 100 million lobsters are bi-colored, and the color split normally goes goes right down the center.  Other lobsters are albino, meaning they have no pigment. This makes them completely white. Even when they are cooked they will not turn red.800px-Blue-lobster

 

Size and molting

American lobsters can grow to be pretty large. As adults, these lobsters can be up to three feet (.9 m) long! They can also weight up to 44 pounds (20 kg).

Unlike vertebrates, many invertebrates, including the American lobster, grow by molting. Before molting, the lobster will make a semi-hard shell under its old shell. It will then draw the liquid out of its extremities so they will be able to fit out of the old shell. Is some limbs are not able to fit out, the lobster will simply “let go” of that limb, leave it inside its old exoskeleton, and wait for a new one to grow back.

In the several hours after molting, the lobster regains the size it was before molting, and its new exoskeleton begins to harden. Some lobsters have been observed eating their own exoskeletons after molting in order to help their new exoskeleton be stronger.

Diet

Lobsters can only eat their exoskeletons right after molting, so they must have some other food. These animals are not picky and will eat pretty much anything they can get their claws on, even if it is dead. Fish, crabs, clams, mussels, starfish, sea urchins, and marine worms make up most of the American lobster’s diet. They can even catch fast moving animals such as shrimp. It was once thought that lobsters were cannibalistic, but this has never been observed in the wild, and any cases of cannibalism occurred in captivity in crowded environments.

Status and Threats

The IUCN redlist rates the American lobster as least concern. The biggest predator of these invertebrates is the human. Once considered a food for poor people, lobster is now thought of as a delicacy. Before lobster fishing became common, after storms, beaches would be lined with lobsters that waves had tossed on to the shore. Lobsters are caught year round, and in 2008, the catches of American lobsters alone weighed 88,000,000 pounds (44,000 tons or 40,000,000 kg. or 39,285 tonnes)!

Lobster fishing

Lobster fishermen catch their animals in traps that they put at the bottom of the ocean. Each trap has a buoy on it that lets the fisherman know where his trap is. The traps have two holes in them. One for lobsters to enter and another one for undersized lobsters and by-catch to escape through. When the fishermen pull up their traps, they remove any small lobsters and animals other than lobsters. They pull out the lobsters individually and put bands around their claws so the lobsters won’t harm each other.

While fishing, if lobster fishermen catch a lobster with a notch in its tail, they will let it go. They do this because the notch means that the lobster is an egg-bearing female. The fishermen want to keep the females alive so that there will be enough lobsters for catching in the future. If they find an egg-bearing female without a notch, they will put a notch in its tail to let their fellow fishermen know to release that individual to insure future generations will have lobsters.

Reproduction

Males usually mate with females right after the females molt. Females can wait up to 15 months after mating before laying eggs, and the eggs will still be fertile. The eggs look like tiny peas. When she is ready, the female will release up to 80,000 eggs, but she will not just subject their destination to the currents. Instead, she attaches them to her swimmerets (small leg-like appendages under the tail) until they are ready to hatch. This takes around nine to eleven months.

Young

After hatching, the young go through three planktonic stages during which they are found near the surface of the ocean. This takes about one month. After this, they settle to the bottom, where they will stay for the rest of their lives. Young american lobsters grow very slowly, and at the age of two years, they are only about three inches (7.6 cm) long! It takes around seven years for a lobster to be big enough to be legal to catch! Some lobsters can live up to 60 years, if they are not caught that is.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

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Sources:

Photo credits:

  • American lobster – Stevenj
  • American lobster range map – Toter Alter Mann
  • Blue american lobster – Stevenj
  • Mystery animal – Public Domain

 

2 Responses

  1. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    I was born in Howland, Me, grad of Bangor HS, husband’s ilsnels brought us to the South so our children could help me care for him. He passed away and I remain in the South. I miss Maine, the seasons, espec Fall and Winter. My mother, who raised 4 children in 1959, since we were 5-15, use to take us to Bar Harbor a lot of Sundays after church , espec. in the summer, just for lobster. You CAN NOT get good lobster in the South. Rock lobster from the South comes NO way near a good Maine lobsta

  2. Lana
    Lana at |

    Interesting about the color split down the middle!

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