I’ve named so many different arthropods after them that I figured it’s about time I do a post on the best arthropod around: lobsters. Since I’ve only met a lobster in person once, and it was a very brief and uneventful encounter at the aquarium, I don’t really have any wacky lobster stories to share with y’all (ironic, I know). Instead, I figured I’d do a top ten list of the most bizarre lobster facts I could find. Prepare to have your lobster-loving minds blown to bits:
10. Lobsters could live forever
Okay, obviously that’s a bit of an exaggeration considering the lobster’s position in the food chain, but if predators weren’t a thing it would still be very rare to see a lobster die of old age. That’s because these wacky crustaceans are constantly producing an enzyme called telomerase that keeps their DNA from wearing away.
See, telomerase is important for humans and lots of animals because without it, our DNA strands would get a little shorter every time they get replicated in our cells. This isn’t an immediate problem because a lot of the nucleotides in our telomeres, or chromosome ends, don’t contain important protein-making genes. However, once your DNA wears away to where the important genes are and those start disappearing, it’s not too great for your cells. While you’re growing up, telomerase elongates the ends of your DNA strands every time your DNA is replicated so that your chromosomes don’t waste away, but as you get older you stop producing telomerase in most of your cells, which is basically what causes us to grow old.
This doesn’t happen in lobsters – they never stop making telomerase and just keep on creating new, ever-youthful DNA indefinitely. If it weren’t for the energy needed to shed their eventually massive exoskeletons, lobsters would probably just keep growing forever – sadly, if a lobster gets too big, it usually dies from molting complications.
I guess the fountain of youth does exist, but rather than making you age backwards it just gives you more telomerase – and only the lobsters know where it is.
9. Lobsters are often considered bugs
I just find this hilarious. I think this became a thing simply because people just aren’t aware of what arthropods are. Gasp – lobsters and beetles both have exoskeletons? They both have antennae, too? Well next I suppose you’re going to tell me they both have jointed legs – wait seriously, they do?! Gosh, it’s like they should be categorized in a taxonomic group of similar animals – the Bug phylum!
“…Arth-roh-pode-ah”? Ew, what’s that, what are you talking about? Is that a made-up word? That sounds like a made-up word. It’s definitely not a Latin term that incorporates the common features of lobsters and beetles. What could be more sophisticated than “bug”?
The funniest part to me is that we didn’t start calling beetles crustaceans. No way, that’s just crazy-talk. But lobsters, the popular seafood entrees, are actually bugs? Sure, okay, fine with us. If anything, this mindset should deter people from gagging at the thought of eating insects: if we eat eerily massive bugs at fancy restaurants, what’s to stop us from eating normal-sized, chocolate-covered ants for an afternoon snack?
8. Some lobsters don’t have claws
The two most common types of lobsters are clawed lobsters and spiny lobsters. A clawed lobster is typically what you order at a seafood restaurant, while a spiny lobster is more likely to make your acquaintance at an aquarium – at least, that’s how it went for me.
Rather than pinch its adversaries, a spiny lobster will simply use its comically large antennae in combat. I guess they’ve just gotta work with what they got.
7. Lobsters used to be a lot more plentiful than they are now
Lobsters may be considered a delicacy nowadays, but there was a time when they were so plentiful that they would wash up on beaches in piles after a storm. Lobsters were a common dish in prisons and for the poor because they were so abundant and cheap, and they were also used to feed livestock and fertilize crops. Who would’ve guessed?
6. Lobsters can be left or right clawed
The lobster’s dominant claw will become its crusher claw. The crusher claw is the larger claw, rowed with tooth-like ridges perfect for… crushing… the hard shells of its prey. It’s also used for attracting mates.
The lobster’s other claw is called the cutter, pincer or seizer, and it’s much more maneuverable than the crusher claw. Also an aptly-named appendage, this claw “cuts” the lobster’s food into bite-sized pieces, then “seizes” these pieces and draws them into its mouth.
Hmm… If I ever get a pet lobster, I think I’ll name it Edward Silverwarehands.
5. Lobsters migrate
Conga lines. Spiny lobsters travel in conga lines. Look it up, it’s too adorable. Thank You, God: You could’ve chosen any other migration method for these little guys, and You picked conga lines. That is fantastic.
After tagging and tracking clawed lobsters, scientists have deduced that these more familiar-looking crustaceans also like to travel, but spiny lobsters have been recorded visibly migrating much more than their combat-ready brethren, moving to deeper, warmer waters in the winter to lay and care for their eggs before traveling back to shallow water when their babies hatch in the warmer months.
4. Lobsters aren’t actually red, and neither is their blood
Ranging from green to brown to even blue in the wild, you’ll probably never see a red lobster unless it’s on your dinner plate. Lobsters only turn red when they’re boiled, thanks to the heat of the water breaking apart the proteins that control their pigment. Lobster blood isn’t red either but is actually clear, turning white and gooey when the lobster is boiled.
…Yeah that’s probably more information than you needed to know. Sorry for the nasty images of lobster blood in your head now. Let’s move on to a more pleasant factoid:
3. Lobsters taste with their legs and chew with their stomachs
Of course. Why not? The world of arthropods is so topsy-turvy and I just love them for it. Like flies and a variety of other insects, lobsters (which are not insects) are able to use the fine hairs on their legs to taste whatever they touch and determine whether or not it’s edible. When they do stumble across a snack, they pop it in their mouths, swallow and chew. You may think I wrote that in the wrong order, but lobsters actually have a hard structure in their stomachs called a gastric mill that chews up their food like a set of molars.
Maybe their mouths were too small to fit teeth in. Or, maybe lobsters have to scarf down their food quick so other lobsters won’t steal their meals. It’s an arthropodan mystery.
2. Lobsters don’t enjoy being boiled alive
This may sound like a no-brainer at first, but seriously, lobsters are definitely aware of what’s going on when they get dropped into a pot of boiling water. For one, lobsters are living thermometers that can detect even slight changes in the temperature of their habitats, meaning they are definitely aware that the pot temperature is dangerously high. While crustaceans’ perception of pain is still a hotly debated topic, experiments have shown that lobsters will go out of their way to avoid things that would cause pain to a human, such as electric shock. Therefore, whether they experience pain being boiled or not, the lobsters in the pot are still anything but comfortable.
Rather than cooking your lobster alive, try the more humane methods of freezing the lobster or swiftly puncturing its head to put it out of its misery quickly rather than torturing it to death. I don’t typically eat lobster, but if I did, I would feel much better knowing its end came fast rather than having its excruciating death in the back of my mind throughout the meal.
What can I say? Just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get a little respect.
1. Lobsters eat their shells after molting
Imagine eating your clothes every time you outgrew them. That’s basically what lobsters do. I mean, they can’t hand their shells down to younger lobsters, which also rules out sending them to lobster goodwill, so if you don’t want to put that old exoskeleton to waste you might as well eat it. Seems logical enough.
Actually, lobsters are known to turn cannibalistic when food runs low, so eating their own skin is kind of less extreme than the alternative. Plus, the old exoskeleton is full of calcium that can be used in building a new shell. The shedding lobster gets calcium and the smaller lobsters don’t get eaten – it’s a win-win!
I know this has been a longer post than normal, so thanks for sticking it out to the end – unless you just skipped to the bottom to see how I decided to rename lobsters, and to that I say: are you crazy?! “Lobster” is perfect; it can never and should never be changed. Lobster is the ultimate arthropod name. Every arthropod, nay, every animal should be called an [adjective/noun] lobster.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take my slobber lobster for a walk.