5/10/12 Update: The Aquarium has once again made news by holding a calico lobster that is bound for Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island. Here's a photo of the new lobster, and more information about lobster colors from Sam's previous post below.
Original 1/14/12 post:
Let’s get something out of the way: invertebrates are awesome! One of the coolest inverts around (in my humble opinion) is the lobster. There are so many cool facts you may not know about these animals, one in particular is that they come in a wide variety of colors!
This blue lobster can be spotted in the Aquarium's Gulf of Maine exhibit.
When most people picture a lobster they imagine a bright red animal on their dinner plate. However, lobsters are only red after they are cooked. Normally they have a brown/green/blue coloration. The really interesting thing about lobster color is all the possible color variations!
American lobster (photo: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons)
You can get blue lobsters (like the one pictured above), yellow lobsters, half brown/half orange lobsters, white lobsters…the list goes on. All of these different colors come with their own probabilities. While white appears to be the most rare at an estimated 1 in 100 million, coming in second place with and approximate 1 in 30 million is the calico lobster. I’m very happy to announce we’ve recently receive a stunningly beautiful calico lobster from our friends at Chatham Fish and Lobster Co.
When lobstermen in the area find these rare color variants in their traps they know how rare and special that is and they often donate them to the Aquarium. That is why here at the aquarium you can see a number of blue lobsters, even though in the wild they only occur at an estimated rate of 1 in 2 to 5 million.
In addition to these naturally colorful lobster residents, there is a lobster laboratory at the Aquarium that hatches and grows lobsters for research purposes that can artificially change a lobster’s colors. Our scientists figured out that all lobster color is derived from a pigment called “astaxanthin” found naturally in a lobster’s diet (the same pigment that turns flamingos pink) and by altering the amount of astaxanthin in a lobster’s food they can change their coloration. In fact, we recently added a new lobster to the Edge of Sea Tidepool Touchtank that was reared in the lab upstairs and is artificially blue.
(Photo: Adam Clem)
At this time, we’re undecided if this new calico lobster will be put on exhibit or used in our Live Animal Presentations (see our blog here about lobster presentations). But, next time you’re in the galleries keep an eye out for our impressively colored lobsters. Also, don’t forget…invertebrates are AWESOME!