comprise a family
sometimes also Homaridae
) of large marine crustaceans
. Lobsters are economically important
, forming the basis of a global
industry that nets more than US$
1 billion annually.
Though several groups of crustaceans are known as "lobsters," the
clawed lobsters are most often associated with the name. They are
also revered for their flavor and texture. Clawed lobsters are not
closely related to spiny lobsters
, which have no
), or squat lobsters
. The closest relatives of
clawed lobsters are the reef lobsters
and the three families of freshwater crayfish
Lobsters are found in all oceans. They live on rocky, sandy, or
muddy bottoms from the shoreline to beyond the edge of the continental shelf
. They generally live
singly in crevices or in burrows under rocks.
They are invertebrates
, with a hard
. Like most
, lobsters must molt
in order to grow, which leaves them vulnerable.
During the molting process, several species change color. Lobsters
have 10 walking legs; the front two adapted to claws.
As arthropods, lobsters have not developed the nervous system of
cephalopod mollusks, nor do they have the advantages of good
eyesight. They do, however, exhibit three remarkable evolutionary
advances that have led to their great success. Their exoskeleton is
a strong, lightweight, form-fitted external covering and support.
They display striated muscle: quick, strong, and lightweight, it
enables rapid movement and flight. Finally, articulated appendages
allow their limbs to
bend at specific points.
Lobsters, omnivores, typically eat prey live: fish, mollusks, other
crustaceans, worms, and some plant life. They scavenge if
necessary, and may resort to cannibalism
in captivity; however, this has not been observed in the wild.
Although lobster skin has been found in lobster stomachs, this is
because lobsters eat their shed skin after molting
Although clawed lobsters, like most other arthropods, are largely
often possess unequal, specialized claws, like the king crab
. The claw of a freshly caught lobster is
full and fleshy, not atrophied. Lobster anatomy includes the
which fuses the head and
, both of which are covered by the
and the abdomen. The lobster's head consists of antennae
, antennules, mandibles
, the first and second
, and the first, second,
and third maxillipeds
lobsters live in a murky environment at the bottom of the ocean, it
mostly uses its antennae as sensors. The lobster eye has a
reflective structure atop a convex retina. In contrast, most
complex eyes use refractive ray concentrators (lenses) and a
concave retina. The abdomen includes swimmerets
and its tail is composed of
Lobsters, like snails and spiders, have blue blood due to the
presence of haemocyanin
, which contains
. (In contrast, mammals and many other
animals have red blood from iron
). Inside lobsters is a green viscous
substance called tomalley
, which serves as
, functioning as
both liver and pancreas.
In general, lobsters are and move by slowly walking on the bottom
of the sea floor. However, when they flee, they swim backwards
quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomen
. A speed of five meters per second
(about 11 mph) has
been recorded. This is known as the caridoid escape reaction
Animals of the genus Symbion
only member of the animal phylum Cycliophora, live on lobster
and mouthparts. To date it has only been
found associated with lobsters.
Recent research has led scientists to believe that lobsters may be
one of a small number of species which do not die of aging.
Lobsters do not slow down, weaken, or lose fertility with age. In
fact, older lobsters are more fertile than younger lobsters. The
reason for this infinite longevity is said to be due to telomerase
, an enzyme
sequences of the form "TTAGG". This
sequence is often referred to as the telomeres of the DNA. In fact,
lobsters may exhibit negligible
, in that they effectively live indefinitely, barring
injury, disease, capture, etc. They can thus reach impressive
sizes. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest
lobster was caught in Nova
Scotia, Canada, and weighed
Lobster recipes include Lobster
and Lobster Thermidor
Lobster is used variously, for example in soup, bisque
or lobster rolls. Lobster meat may be
dipped in clarified butter
resulting in a sweetened flavor.
Cooks boil live lobsters in water or steam. The lobster simmers for
seven minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each
Lobsters are also fried, grilled, or baked.
Lobsters are sold alive with claws strapped or banded to prevent
them from injuring each other or people. The banding causes the
claws to gradually atrophy
. Lobsters may be
prepared and cooked while alive; removing their claws may not kill
them. As with all shellfish
, lobster is
. The majority of the meat is in
the tail and the two front claws. The legs and torso
contain smaller quantities. Freezing
the lobster may toughen the meat. A common
misconception is that a lobster screams when boiled; actually the
whistling sound is steam escaping the shell.
European wild lobster, including the royal blue lobster of Audresselles, is more expensive and rare than the American
lobster. It was consumed chiefly by the royal and
aristocratic families of France and the
Such scenes were depicted in Dutch Golden Age paintings
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In North America, the American lobster did not achieve popularity
until the mid-19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostonians
developed a taste; not until the invention of a special vessel, the
, did a commercial
fishery flourish. Prior to this time, lobster was considered a
mark of poverty or as a food for indentured servants or lower
members of society in Maine, Massachusetts and the Canadian Maritimes.
Into the 1950s, people in these
regions buried their lobster shells to escape the stigma.
and servants specified in employment agreements that they would not
eat lobster more than twice per week. In Canada, outside of the
rural outposts lobster was sold canned. New England's fresh
lobster trade extended as far as Philadelphia.
The lobster market changed once the transportation industry could
deliver live lobsters to urban centers. Fresh lobster became a
luxury food and a tourist attraction for
the Maritime provinces and a luxury export to Europe and Japan where it is
Lobster's high price led to the creation of "faux lobster". It is
often made from pollock
or other whitefish
. A few restaurants sell
translates into prawn
; the actual animal may
be crab. The spiny lobster is also called langouste
Capacity for pain
Due to the ambiguous nature of suffering
the issue of lobster pain may be argued by analogy—that lobster
biology is similar to human biology or that lobster behavior
warrants assumptions that lobsters can feel pain.
The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety tentatively
concluded that "it is unlikely that [lobsters] can feel pain,"
though they note:
"there is apparently a paucity of exact knowledge on
sentience in crustaceans, and more research is
This conclusion is based on the lobster's simple nervous system.
The report assumes that the violent reaction of lobsters to boiling
water is a reflex to noxious stimuli.
However, review by the Scottish animal
group Advocate for Animals released the same year
"scientific evidence ... strongly suggests that there
is a potential for [lobsters] to experience pain and
primarily because lobsters (and other decapod
crustaceans) "have opioid receptors and
respond to opioids
such as morphine
) in a similar way to vertebrates,"
indicating that lobsters' reaction to injury changes in the
presence of painkillers. The similarities in lobsters' and
vertebrates' stress systems and behavioral responses to noxious
stimuli were given as additional evidence.
study at Queen's University, Belfast, suggested that crustaceans do feel pain.
the experiment, when prawn antennae were rubbed with sodium
hydroxide or acetic acid, the animals showed increased grooming of
the afflicted area and rubbed it more against the side of the tank.
Moreover, this reaction was inhibited by a local anesthetic, even
though control prawns treated with only anesthetic did not show
reduced activity. Professor Robert
, who headed the study, argues that sensing pain is
crucial to prawn survival, because it encourages them to avoid
damaging behaviors. Some scientists responded, saying the rubbing
may reflect an attempt to clean the affected area.
In a 2009 study, Prof. Elwood and Mirjam Appel showed that hermit crabs
make motivational tradeoffs between
shocks and the quality of the shells they inhabit. In particular,
as crabs are shocked more intensely, they become increasingly
willing to leave their current shells for new shells, and they
spend less time deciding whether to enter those new shells.
Moreover, because the researchers did not offer the new shells
until after the electrical stimulation had ended, the behavior
change resulted from memory of the noxious event, not an immediate
In vertebrates, endogenous opioids
that moderate pain by
interacting with opiate
and opiate receptors occur
naturally in crustaceans, and although The Norwegian Scientific
Committee for Food Safety claims that “at present no certain
conclusion can be drawn,” critics interpret their presence as an
indication that lobsters experience pain. The aforementioned
Scottish paper holds that vertebrates and lobsters' opioids may
"mediate pain in the same way".
, an analgesic, and naloxone
, an opioid receptor antagonist, may affect
a related species of crustacean (Chasmagnathus granulatus
much the same way they affect vertebrates: injections of morphine
into crabs produced a dose-dependent reduction of their defensive
response to an electric shock. (However, the attenuated defensive
response could originate from either the analgesic or sedative
properties of morphine, or both.) These findings have been
replicated for other invertebrate species, but similar data is not
yet available for lobsters.
Animal welfare issues
The most common way of killing a lobster is by placing it, live, in
boiling water, or by splitting: severing the body in half,
The boiling method (also used to kill crabs, crayfish and shrimp)
is controversial because some believe that the lobster suffers.
practice is illegal in some places, such as in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where offenders face fines of up to
The Norwegian study states that
the lobster may be de-sensitized by placing it in a salt solution
15 minutes before killing it.
In 2006, British inventor Simon Buckhaven invented the Crustastun
, which electrocutes lobsters with
a 110 V electric shock
, killing them
in five seconds. This ensures a quicker death for the lobster.
Seafood wholesalers in Britain use a commercial version. A home
version was released to the public in about 2006.
Fishery and aquaculture
Lobsters are caught using baited, one-way traps with a color-coded
marker buoy to mark cages. Lobster is fished in water between 1 and
500 fathoms, although some lobsters live at 2,000 fathoms. Cages
are of plastic-coated galvanized steel or wood. A lobster fisher
may tend as many as 2,000 traps. Around the year 2000, due to
overfishing and high demand, lobster
expanded. As of 2008, no lobster farming operation had
achieved commercial success.
In human culture
Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped
the sea and its animals.
Moche art often depicted
Lobsters dance a "Lobster Quadrille" in the eponymous chapter of
's famous book
Alice in Wonderland
and the related lobster poems can be read here
: "Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t
you, won’t you join the dance?"
and "Tis the voice of the
Lobster; I heard him declare."
List of clawed lobster species
This list contains all known species in the family
- Emerging Area of Aging Research: Long-Lived Animals with
"Negligible Senescence", John C. Guerin. Annals of the New
York Academy of Sciences 1019 (1) , 518–520. ( abstract)
- Woodard, Colin. The
Lobster Coast. New York. Viking/Penguin, ISBN
0-670-03324-3, 2004, pp. 170-180
- Do Most People Know What They're Eating? |
- Maine Today : Comments
- How lobster went up in the world, The Times
- Sample, Ian. "Blow for fans of boiled lobster: crustaceans feel
pain, study says", The Guardian, Nov 8, 2007.
- Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient
Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera.
New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997
- Chapter X, Alice in Wonderland, Lewis