Lobsters and the lobster fishery is an important part of the Dublin Shore and LaHave Islands communities. We were reminded of this on a recent paddle at the start of the local lobster fishing season - lobster trap markers sprung up with the start of the season and the waterways were busy with fishermen were out in their boats, working away. It seems like a good time to brush up on some fun lobster natural history info and celebrate our popular local invertebrate friend. I hope you enjoy!
Lobsters as food
Many of us already know that lobster wasn't always considered a gourmet delicacy. Did you know that in the 17th & 18th centuries, laws were passed forbidding people to feed servants lobster more than twice a week. They were also served in prisons and often used as fertilizer. In the 19th and 20th century, when fresh lobsters made it onto the plates of our urban taste makers thanks to improvements in infrastructure, they began to be thought of as a delicacy.
Lobsters & fashion
Helmets worn by Roman warriors immortalized the strength of the lobster. Around 1630, a new Turkish helmet, the Zischägge, or "lobster tail", was being used in Eastern Europe. It had overlapping steel plates over the neck guard, providing both protection and ventilation for the neck. The bowl (head cover) was fluted and had a single adjustable nasal bar, similar to the rostrum (most frontal part) of the lobster.
Lobsters as medicine
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, lobsters were used for all sorts of medical conditions. The most seemingly random: "Their gastrolith, a calcareous "rock" found in the stomachs of lobsters preparing to shed their shell, was used for eye inflammations and as a remedy for stomach aches and epilepsy". (www.lobsters.org)
They can be HUGE
The largest lobster recorded was caught off of Nova Scotia, and weighed 44 pounds, 6 ounces. It was 3 feet, 6 inches long. Scientists believe it was at least 100 years old!
Lobsters have two different type of claws, the crusher claw and the pincer claw. Some crush with their right, and some crush with their left. It's reported that 10lb lobster and bigger can shatter a glass pop bottle with a pinch of the claw. If a lobster ever pinches you, you can close the lobster’s other claw to be released. We have not tested this this.
A Caridoid Escape!
In general, lobsters travel by slowly walking on the sea floor. However, when they flee, they swim backward quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomen . This is known as the Caridoid Escape Reaction, which is also observed in krill, shrimp and crayfish. A speed of 5 metres per second (11 mph) has been recorded by lobsters.
Molting sounds tough!
Adults lobsters molt three or four times a year. During this process the lobster grows a new soft shell underneath its old hard shell.
"It then hides in a rocky crevice for protection, bends into a V-shape and shrinks its extremities. It withdraws from its old shell, sometimes even self-amputating a claw or leg in the process. The lobster will begin to regain its larger size and the new shell will begin to harden. Missing legs or claws will regenerate" ( http://thisfish.info/fishery/species/atlantic-lobster/ )
Shells and flavour
New-shell lobsters have paper-thin shells and a lower meat-to-shell ratio, but the meat is very sweet. However, the lobsters are so delicate that the market for new-shell lobsters strictly local to the fishing towns where they are offloaded. Hard-shell lobsters with firm shells, but with less sweet meat, can survive shipping, so they command a higher price than new-shell lobsters. Meanwhile, old-shell lobsters, have a coarser flavour, but can be shipped by air anywhere in the world and arrive alive, making them the most-expensive.
Lobsters may come in a variety of colors besides the usual blue-green, including blue, yellow, red, and white. Only the white lobsters (true albinos) don't turn red when cooked.
Additional sources consulted, in no particular order: