What kind of creature lives forever, regenerates lost limbs, keeps on growing, and chews with its stomach? Is this an extraterrestrial from the space epic Star Wars? No, it’s just a lobster and it hails from northeasternmost state of Maine, USA, planet earth. As of yet, the Maine lobster has yet to been granted Jedi status or has it? With its armored shell and 10 appendages, it is a remarkably unusual creature. Here are 12 extraordinary lobster facts.
1. Labor of Lobster Love
Why you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder! –Princess Leia to Hans Solo in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Who can forget the star-crossed romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia? Lobsters hook up too!
The female (also called a hen) is the aggressor in the mating game. She searches out and seduces the biggest and baddest alpha male lobster. Claw size does matter as females ‘fall head over tail’ for the dominate male with a super-sized claw. Contrary to the popular memes floating around online, lobsters do not mate for life. Dominate male lobsters are routinely seduced into one night stands, while females choose with whom they want to mate.
Female lobsters can mate only after molting, putting them at the mercy of the male, who can choose to either fertilize them or eat them. The female molts so her private parts can become available. When lobsters mate, the eggs aren’t fertilized right away. The female carries the male’s sperm and chooses when to fertilize her eggs.
A female lobster lays anywhere between several thousand and 100,000 eggs at a time. It’s a wonder you ever get to sit down to a lobster dinner, because 99 percent of all lobsters die a few weeks after hatching. The eggs are no bigger than the head of a pin. The baby lobster is the size of a mosquito when it leaves the female’s body. At about the 3 week mark, a baby lobster will look like its parents. At the end of a lobster’s second year, it will have grown to only about two inches long—still smaller than a jumbo shrimp! The odds are 10,000 to 1 against any larval lobster living long enough to be eaten by a lobster lover. For that matter, it has been estimated that only 1 in 1,000 animals born in the sea survives to maturity.
2. Lobsters Smell Funny
Were you lucky to snap up the fragrance called Slave Leia Perfume licensed exclusively for sale at the 2010 Star Wars Celebration Convention? Fearless and inventive, Slave Leia perfume is “more powerful than a thermal detonator, and yet more comfortable than a metal bikini.”
Lobsters navigate by smell by using their antennae. The antennae are sensory organs. In fact, successful lobster mating depends on their sense of smell. The large pair help lobsters navigate the ocean floor by touching. The two small pairs on front of their heads allow them to recognize chemical signals and sense odors in the water.
Lobsters “smell” their food by using four small antennae on the front of their heads and tiny sensing hairs that cover their bodies. They also “taste” with their feet and “hear” with their legs. Along with the legs, the mouthparts contain the taste organs for the lobster.The hairs on their claws and other body parts can detect water current and vibration. A lobster’s sense of smell is so fine that they can sniff out a single amino acid that tags their favorite food!
3. Lobsters Go to the Dark and Colorful Side
In May of 2013 Gloucester, Massachusetts based Captain Joe and Sons landed a mutated lobster resembling the Star Wars villain Darth Maul. This rare lobster was colored a red and black inkblot pattern.
Lobsters can be just about every color in the rainbow, calico, yellow, orange, and even blue— like Max Rebo, the little bright blue elephant and keyboardist in Return of the Jedi. According to the Lobster Institute, only one in two million lobsters is blue. Live lobsters are a common darkish green and brown lobster. They will turn the familiar red color after they a cooked.
[box]As Red as a Lobster. See and learn about the strange and brilliant colors of live lobsters
On March 10, 2016 a lobster caught was caught off Canada with four claws. “Clawdette” a-pound-and-a-half female lobster, has four fully formed and functional claws. One claw on one arm and three on the other. Lobsters normally have one pincher claw and one crusher claw. Like the strange colored lobsters, a genetic defect may explain the extra claws. Claudette was saved from the pot and donated to the State Department of Marine Resources.
4. Stormtroopers and Lobsters are Lefties
Did you know the Imperial Stormtroopers were all left-handed? This was due to the design of the E-11 blaster rifle. This standard issue weapon had its ammunition magazine on the left side. Perhaps another explanation is the Stormtroopers were all cloned?
A lobster can be left or right-handed. It is not until the first year or so that young lobsters begin to favor one claw over another. The two large front pinchers are not symmetrical because they serve different purposes. The larger “crusher” claw is designed to crack hard objects such as shells. The slender “pincher” or quick claw is used for seizing and tearing food. Like humans, most lobsters are “right handed” determined by the position of the pincher claw. If the larger crusher claw is lost, the lobster can turn into a southpaw while the right claw regenerates. Sometimes a lobster has two identical claws (normally two pinchers).
5. Lobsters Can Regenerate Lost Limbs
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker received a bionic arm to replace his lost limb from his duel with Darth Vader.
Lobsters have no need for cybernetic replacements. Not only can lobsters regenerate claws, but also legs, and antennae. If a lobster loses an eye, however, it cannot regenerate a new one. Amazingly, lobsters can amputate their own claws and legs (called autotomy) to escape danger. A lobster can drop its claw as a way to release itself from a predator’s grasp or to distract them. A lost leg is slowly regenerated through successive molts of the lobster’s exoskeleton. The cells near the damaged area will begin to divide and to grow a new appendage. It takes several molts (probably over several months) to regenerate completely a large limb such as a claw in an adult lobster. If the lobster is young and growing quickly, regeneration will take less time.
A pistol is a lobster that has lost both claws, usually due to predators. If you are looking for a deal on live lobsters sometimes you can find culls or lobsters with only one claw.
6. Lobster Can See in the Sea
“It’s a trap!” is a famous line Admiral Ackbar calls out in the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. An amphibious species, Ackbar is distinguished by his large fish-like eyes—eyes that are much different than that of the lobster. But the question remains: Can the Admiral lead a rebellion of Maine’s lobsters away from the traps set by lobstermen?
Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. The great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs young Luke Skywalker to trust the Force
Lobsters also have an extra “Force” awareness and rely more heavily on smell, touch, and taste, than eyesight.
Lobster have two stalked eyes, but they are more like motion-sensor lights you find on a front porch. They are ultra-sensitive to detect movement. The atennae and the little hairs on the legs aid lobsters amazing ability to “see” through silt and sand while in the murky Atlantic waters.The two eyes of a lobster each has 13,000 lenses and 13,000 individual nerve rods. Even more astounding: the stalk of the lobsters eye contains a growth-inhibiting hormone that makes a blinded lobster grow twice as fast as a sighted one. Some even say lobsters have x-ray vision.
7. Lobster Pinching Power
While lobsters cannot use the power of the Force to wield lightsabers; they do have amazing pinching power. The power is in the closing of the claw, not opening.
According to Robert Bayer, Executive Director at the Lobster Institute, good-sized lobsters can raise a pressure closing strength of 100 pounds per square inch. The crusher claw is the one that produces more force than the cutter claw. But it is always the quick action of the pincher that will bite your finger! If a lobster has you in its grip, hold perfectly still. The lobster will think you are dead and will release its hold. You can also submerge your hand with lobster in water, and the lobster should release. Or better yet, try Plan A: leave the bands on the claws before cooking!
8. Lobsters Chew with their Stomachs
Stars Wars crime lord Jabba the Hutt had an insatiable appetite and it showed. He weighed over a ton with most of his girth located in his fat belly. Like the lobster, he swallows his meal whole and lets his stomach do the chewing! Maybe he could use an extra stomach like the lobster.
The lobster’s mouth is located a short distance from the stomach. It grips the food and passes it to the stomach for crushing and ingestion. The cardiac stomach is located in the lobster’s “head” behind the eyes and brain. It contains the teeth of a lobster to crush its food. Lobsters chew their food in the stomach between three grinding surfaces that look like molar surfaces, called the gastric mill. Right behind the first stomach is the pyloric stomach that extends to the abdomen. It is here where the crushed particles are filtered according to size by feather-like hairs. Along with the legs, the mouthparts contain the taste organs for the lobster.
9. Lobsters Have Out-of-Body (Shell) Experiences
The next time you feel stressed, remember a lobster grows a bigger shell when the old one becomes too uncomfortable. A lobster will go through the cycle of shedding and filling out its shell as a matter of course throughout its life in order to grow larger. When the lobster has completely filled out its existing shell and can grow no more, a new shell is generated within the old which follows the exact colors, contours, of the visible exoskeleton. Lobsters molt warm waters, typically in the summer months.
When a lobster molts (sheds), the “old shell” splits down the back of the carapace, and where the carapace and tail meet. The lobster slips out in one piece, leaving the rigid armor of the old shell on the bottom of ocean, in perfect shape. It takes about half an hour for a lobster to molt. A lobster sheds its shell, called a carapace, six to eight times before its first birthday. A legal size lobster (about 1 lb.) will have molted twenty to thirty times in a 6-7 year period. With each molt, a lobster increases its size by about 20 percent. As a lobster grows older and larger, the molts occur less frequently.
10. Super-Sized Crustaceans
The monstrous Star Wars beast called the exogorth, also know as the Giant Space Slug, is bigger than an air craft carrier and large enough to swollow the starship Millennium Falcon whole!
The American (Maine) lobster can grow to more than 45 pounds—about as much as a four-year-old child. What’s truly amazing is that under ideal conditions lobsters never stop growing.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest lobster was caught in Nova Scotia in 1977. It weighed forty-four pounds, six ounces. The largest lobster in scientific record was was 42.5 lbs. and was caught off of Cape Cod in 1974.
An even bigger lobster, a whopping 700 lbs., can be spotted every first weekend in August at the Maine lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine. His name is Rocky. In Maine it is illegal to catch lobsters with body shells longer than five inches.
11. Lobster Get Pissed Off
The lightsaber is the signature weapon in Stars Wars, but the blaster was the most commonly used weapon. It fired bolts of energy. Lobsters also have blasters; a set of pee blasters!
Lobsters pee out of their faces because their kidneys are in their foreheads! The urine comes from antennal glands, muscular nozzles located just below the antennae. These pee-shooters are powerful and can fire up to five feet.
Lobster peeing at each other is part of both courtship and combat. Male lobsters pee in each other’s faces when they fight! Male combat is a way to establish dominance. Female lobsters shoot it as love potion to attract a dominant male. Females squirt their pheromone-laced urine into his shelter or den to relax her lover and reduce his aggression. Once the lobsters “hook-up” they shack up for a couple weeks until her soft-shell hardens up; and she moves out. So much for lobsters mating for life!
12. Live Long and Lobster
Jedi Master Yoga peacefully died at the ripe old age of 900 and became “one with the Force.”
Lobsters also live a long life and are considered biologically immortal. Because of the lobsters molting cycle, it is difficult to estimate a lobsters age, however, some monster sized lobsters have been estimated to be 100 years or more! One formula to estimate a lobster’s age is to take its weight and multiply by 4, and add 3 years. The bigger the lobster, the older it is. A lobster is approximately 7 years old before it is legal to harvest, and it will weigh about 1 pound (chicken lobsters).
But what confounds scientists is that with age lobsters show no signs of slowing down, weakening or becoming infertile. They actually become more fertile in their old age. For example, bigger females can carry more eggs with her larger tail. Some scientists credit the presence of the enzyme telomerase (repairs DNA sequences) that enables the lobster’s cells to perfectly replicate again and again.
In the end, lobsters grow until they die. They are also susceptible to predators, and shell disease, and environmental stressors including warming waters, ocean acidification and pollution. And just like Yoda, lobsters do not live forever; eventually they lose the energy to sustain themselves.
With all the amazing lobster facts it may be plausible that lobsters can tap into the power of the Force. But ultimately is is up to mankind to be protectors of peace and love not only in the galaxy, but locally in our oceans. We must support responsible stewardship of our natural marine resources so that future generations will continue to enjoy the best lobsters in the world.
- Corson, Trevor. The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2004. Print.
- “Lobsters May Hold the Key to Eternal Life.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
- “Through a Lobster’s Eyes : DNews.” DNews. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
- Alexander Violo. “Fishery Watches the ‘creep into Maine’ of Lobster Shell Disease.” Bangor Daily News RSS. 2016. Web. 11 May 2016. <http://bangordailynews.com/2016/04/28/news/midcoast/fishery-watches-gradual-creep-into-maine-of-lobster-shell-disease/>.
- Delinsky, B., & Groves, R. (2005). Does a lobsterman wear pants?: And 184 other questions you’ve always wanted to ask about lobsters and lobstering. Camden, ME: Down East Books.