Originally published in
Island Ad-Vantages, August 22, 2013
Rare lobsters and the science behind them
Colored crustaceans call Penobscot East home
Penobscot East Resource Center’s new touch tank currently houses two rare lobsters: a red one and a yellow one. But, rare lobsters also come in other colors, or mixture of colors in some cases, and typically a few times a summer one of these rare lobsters ends up in the traps of a lobster fisherman.
Many people think the red lobster looks normal, because its color resembles that of the crustacean they’re used to seeing on their plates. In fact, the chances of catching a red lobster are about one in 10 million.
“A lobster’s color comes from layers of pigment,” explained Penobscot East intern Elizabeth Evans. “Red lobsters under-produce the same pigment that blue lobsters overproduce.” Cooking breaks down the layer of pigment that naturally red lobsters lack, lending cooked lobsters their red hue.
A lobsterman caught Penobscot East’s red lobster in mid-August in about 220 feet of water. “The red one is a very aggressive male lobster,” said Evans. “He pushes stuff in the tank around and rearranges it the way he wants.”
The yellow lobster, which has been at Penobscot East since early August, is even rarer than the red one. Only one in 30 million lobsters is yellow.
Blue lobsters are the most common oddly colored lobster, at about one in two million. “We had two blue lobsters earlier in the summer,” said Evans. Over the years, calico lobsters, albino lobsters, and two-tone split lobsters have also shown up in traps along the coast.
Penobscot East will return the red and yellow lobsters to the ocean soon. Typically, Penobscot East keeps lobsters in the tank for two weeks before releasing them.