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9 Facts About Lobsters

Lobsters Are Both a Delicacy and Fascinating Marine Animals

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When you think of lobster, do you think of a bright red crustacean on your dinner plate, or a territorial creature roaming caves in the ocean? Despite their fame as a delicacy, lobsters also have fascinating lives. Learn more about this iconic marine creature here.

1. Lobsters are invertebrates.

American Lobster Image
Jennifer Kennedy, licensed to About.com

Lobsters are part of the extremely diverse group of marine invertebrates, animals without a notochord. Like many invertebrates, lobsters protect themselves with their hard exoskeleton.

2. Not all lobsters have claws.

There are two kinds of lobsters, and these are commonly referred to as "clawed" lobsters and "spiny" lobsters, or rock lobsters. Clawed lobsters include the American lobster, a well-known marine species. Clawed lobsters are generally found in cold waters.

Spiny lobsters do not have claws, but instead have long, strong antennae. These lobsters are generally found in warm water.

3. Lobsters prefer live food.

Although they have a reputation for being scavengers and even cannibals, studies of wild lobsters show that they prefer live prey, such as fish, mollusks, worms and crustaceans. Lobsters may eat other lobsters in captivity, but this has not been observed in the wild.

4. Lobsters can live a long time.

It takes an American lobster 6-7 years to get to an edible size, but that is just the beginning. Lobsters are long-lived animals, and are thought to be capable of living over 100 years.

5. Lobsters molt.

A lobster's shell can't grow, therefore as the lobster gets bigger and older, it molts and forms a new shell. Molting occurs about once a year in an adult lobster and is a vulnerable time in which the lobster retreats to a hiding spot and withdraws out of its shell. After molting the lobster's body is very soft and it can take a few months for its shell to harden again. When fish markets advertise soft-shell lobsters, these are lobsters that have recently molted.

6. Lobsters can grow to over 3 feet.

The largest American lobster was caught off of Nova Scotia, and weighed 44 pounds, 6 ounces and was 3 feet, 6 inches long. Not all lobsters are this big, though. The slipper lobster, a type of clawless lobster, may be only a few inches long.

7. Lobsters are bottom-dwellers.

Take one look at a lobster and it's obvious that they can't swim too far! Lobsters do start out at the surface of the water, as they go through a planktonic stage prior to settling to the bottom. As the tiny lobsters grow, they eventually settle to the ocean bottom, where they prefer to hide in rocky caves and crevices.

8. You can tell the difference between a male and female lobster.

How do you tell the difference between a male and female lobster? Look under its tail. On the underside of its tail, a lobster has swimmerets, which are used to help the lobster swim and in mating. The male has a modified pair of swimmerets. Click here for more specifics on how to figure out the gender of a lobster.

9. Lobsters are not red in the wild.

American Lobster Image
Jennifer Kennedy, licensed to About.com

When you think of a lobster, you might think of a bright red creature. Most lobsters are a brown to olive-green color in the wild, with only a reddish tinge.

Lobsters have a carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin in their shell, which provides a red coloring. However, in most lobsters, this reddish color is mixed with other colors to form the lobster's normal coloration. Astaxanthin is stable in heat, while the other pigments are not. This means that when a lobster is cooked, the other pigments break down, leaving only the bright red astaxanthin, thus a bright red lobster on your plate! More on lobster coloration.

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