lobster facts

15 Lobster Facts About These Iconic Ocean Dwellers

Exploring this list of lobster facts reveals more about these animals than we see on the dinner plate. In the past, they were poor man's food (even prisoners ate lobsters!), but today they have become luxury items. 

By understanding their vital role in the oceanic ecosystem and exploring their incredible adaptations, we can better appreciate and protect these marine species.

Can't get enough of lobsters? Check out these ocean quotes about their home!

15 Lobster Facts

lobster on rock
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

1. Lobsters change colors.

One fascinating lobster fact is that lobsters can change colors due to a special pigment called astaxanthin2. These pigments are found naturally in lobster shells and help lobsters change into various colors. In the wild, lobsters often display blue, green, or brown shades, allowing them to blend into the ocean floor.

How does it work? Astaxanthin binds proteins in the lobster's shell, creating unique colors. When cooking lobsters, the heat causes the proteins to break down, causing the pigment to turn into its iconic red color. 

However, the red color of cooked lobsters doesn't equate to freshness or high quality; the color merely signals the chemical reaction between astaxanthin and heat.

2. There are two main lobster types.

blue lobster
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Two main lobster types exist in the world: clawed and spiny lobsters. Clawed lobsters have powerful massive claws that help them capture prey. On the other hand, deep-sea lobsters live in the ocean's depths. 

Lobster claws serve different purposes. For example, the European and American lobster–or Maine lobster uses the larger or crusher claw to help them break open mollusk and crustacean shells to access the meat inside. Meanwhile, the smaller claw–the pincher or ripper claw–rips apart softer prey. American lobsters also live in the Atlantic Ocean.

On the other hand, Spiny Lobsters have no claws. Instead, they have other means of defense. For example, the spiny Caribbean lobsters and California spiny lobsters have long and spiky antennae, which deter predators and help them navigate their surroundings. 

3. Lobsters are closer to insects than fish.

Lobsters belong to the Arthropoda phylum, which includes many invertebrates with jointed limbs and segmented bodies. Both lobsters and insects lack a backbone, and their hard chitin exoskeletons provide support and protection.

Several elements set lobsters and insects apart. For instance, lobsters boast ten legs, while insects have six legs. Their habitats and respiratory systems are distinct, too. As aquatic creatures, lobsters rely on gills to breathe, while insects have adapted to life on land and use the tracheal system to exchange air.

4. Lobsters live on the ocean floor.

lobster's front view
Photo by sparkielyle on Pixabay

Lobsters inhabit rocky coastal crevices to the sandy and muddy depths farther offshore. Each habitat offers abundant food sources, a defense against predators, or favorable conditions for reproduction.

Instead of swimming, these crustaceans walk on the ocean floor using specialized legs called pereiopods. They also detect nearby movement using their antennae. As nocturnal animals, lobsters spend most of the day inside caves, crevices, and under rocks. 

5. Lobster blood is blue.

One of the most interesting facts about lobsters is their blue blood. Lobsters' blue blood comes from their circulatory system, which uses hemolymph for blood and interstitial fluid3. Compared to vertebrates that use iron-based hemoglobin, lobsters' hemoglobin has hemocyanin, a copper-based molecule. Hemocyanin transports oxygen throughout a lobster's body.

6. Lobster antennae are stronger than their eyes.

The ocean's depths are dark but bustling with life. Navigating such an environment is challenging for any animal, including lobsters. They rely on their antennae to navigate and interact with their environment, as their eyes only provide a basic sense of light and dark.

Lobsters have three sets of antennae which help them survive in their environment. The bigger ones are covered in sensitive hairs, which help them feel objects and find food. Meanwhile, the specialized smaller antennae can detect chemical changes in the water, helping them find mates or detect threats. 

Moreover, these antennae help lobsters keep a safe distance from predators, distracting them with their length. Lobsters can also make sounds from their carapace to warn or deter danger.

7. Lobsters spray urine at one another.

lobster underwater
Photo by axistravel on Pixabay

It sounds hard to believe, but lobsters communicate by spraying urine at each other! This incredible messaging system, known as urinary olfactory communication, uses nephropores, tiny openings at the base of their antennae. Controlling the release of urine allows these crustaceans to share essential details about themselves with other lobsters1.

This unique method of communication has two primary purposes: maintaining social order and selecting mates. In the lobster community, individuals must recognize their place in the hierarchy; urinary signals help them assert dominance without causing conflict. 

After male lobsters have established their ranks through battle, they use these signals to remind others of the agreed-upon hierarchy. On the other hand, female lobsters rely on these chemical cues to evaluate potential partners and make an informed decision on the best mate to ensure the survival of their species.

Halfway through the article? Keep scrolling to learn more fascinating lobster facts!

8. Lobsters eat lobster, too.

Lobsters feed on fresh food like fish, mollusks, sea urchins, and crustaceans. However, lobsters don’t mind eating their kind, particularly in tight spaces like lobster traps. They also eat other lobsters when food becomes scarce. 

Lobsters are opportunistic feeders, scouring the ocean floor for sustenance. As opportunists, they are crucial to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem as they keep their surroundings clean by consuming dead and decaying organisms. Besides their carnivorous tendencies, lobsters eat algae and other plant matter, keeping the ocean's ecosystem balanced.

9. Lobsters chew with their stomachs.

Unlike humans, lobsters don't use teeth to digest food. Instead, they use a unique grinding structure called the gastric mill, located just behind their eyes. This feature works like teeth, breaking the food into smaller, more manageable pieces. Specifically, It's like having a set of fangs inside the stomach, a feature absent in many other marine creatures4.

The gastric mill would be approximately the size of a walnut in a one-pound lobster. Moreover, the gastric mill helps lobsters crush their food, allowing them to extract nutrients from their prey. 

10. Lobsters migrate in single file.

lobster's claw
Photo by Tauchteufel on Pixabay

As winter approaches, lobsters migrate for food and mating opportunities. These creatures travel up to 100 miles during their seasonal migration. While traveling, lobsters follow ocean currents and rely on their strong legs to move swiftly across the ocean floor.

While migrating, these crustaceans form "lobster trains" or "lobster parades," moving in a single file to efficiently protect themselves against predators. Their migration depends on water temperature, food, and the ocean floor. Interestingly, lobsters in colder waters travel further than those in warmer waters. Despite challenges, they have a strong instinct to return to their homes with the seasons.

Other fun facts: Migration is common to marine animals. Sea turtles, for example, can travel up to 10,000 miles!

11. Lobsters dance to attract mates.

Next on our interesting lobster facts: Male lobsters perform an intricate dance emphasizing their vigor and strength in competition with other males.

During the lobster's mating process, the male lobster approaches the female lobster with impressive claws. Then, he moves his claws rhythmically, showing off his agility and precision. However, the mating dance is just one aspect of this intricate courtship. The male lobster also emits pheromones through his urine, attracting females and signaling his readiness to mate. 

These powerful chemical messengers can significantly influence the female's receptiveness to the male's advances. While the male dances, the female lobster inspects his movements and scent, judging his worthiness as a potential partner. Once she has picked a partner, the lobsters mate, and the cycle begins again.

12. Lobsters carry eggs under their tails.

lobster's side view
Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels

Female lobsters become "berried lobsters" once they begin carrying eggs. They have evolved a unique adaptation, the ovigerous setae, that allow them to secure fertilized eggs under their tails. 

Moreover, this feature comprises interlocking hair-like structures, forming a safe environment for the eggs. These eggs hatch after several months or a year, depending on the water temperature and the species of lobster. Likewise, female lobsters can carry a few thousand to over 100,000 eggs, depending on their size. 

Lobster eggs change from orange to black when they are ready to hatch. Tiny larvae called zoea come out of the eggs and look different from adult lobsters. For the next few weeks, these baby lobsters must find food and grow, molting several times before becoming juvenile lobsters. Then, these juvenile lobsters molt even more to transform into adults.

13. Lobsters can live a long life.

Species like Maine Lobsters can live for over 50 years thanks to their ability to repair damaged DNA, protecting them against aging-related diseases. However, predation, disease, and environmental conditions affect their lifespan. Intriguingly, a lobster's reproductive potential grows the older it gets, so larger females lay more eggs.

Determining the exact age of a lobster has long puzzled scientists. However, they have discovered a helpful clue in the form of growth rings in the lobsters' eyestalks. These rings are similar to those in the trunks of trees. Other indicators of age are hidden areas of a lobster's body, such as its stomach teeth, gastric mills, and the hardened sections of its legs.

14. Lobsters molt and grow indeterminately

lobster on floor
Photo by photopig71 on Pixabay

Lobsters experience perpetual growth due to their molting ability, where they shed their exoskeletons. Lobsters grow throughout their lives compared to other animals with finite growth periods. Even though molting frequency decreases as the lobster ages, it continues to grow at a slower rate. 

Young lobsters undergo a remarkable molting process, shedding their exoskeletons up to 25 times during their first 5-7 years of life. This rapid growth is essential for their survival and success in the competitive marine environment. 

As they grow, lobsters become more resilient to threats and predators. However, molting requires significant energy, leaving the lobsters vulnerable while their new exoskeleton hardens. 

15. Lobsters face threats of overfishing and habitat loss.

Since lobster meat has become a luxury dish, these animals face significant overfishing and habitat loss. Mainly from the lobster industry, overfishing means people catch lobsters faster than they can reproduce, leading to dwindling numbers.

Lower lobster numbers affect the marine ecosystem. Moreover, "ghost fishing" arises when abandoned or lost fishing gear, such as traps, kill lobsters caught in them.

Furthermore, coastal development, pollution, and climate change threaten lobster populations. For instance, higher water temperatures and increased ocean acidity can disrupt lobsters' reproductive cycles and lower their chances of survival.

Today, conservationists promote sustainable lobster fishing practices and habitat restoration to help lobster populations recover. Enforcing size and trap limits and regulating fishing gear usage can also help maintain lobster populations and reduce bycatch.

Additionally, conservation efforts involve restoring habitats, like replanting seagrass beds and rebuilding reefs. These actions sustain the marine environment and help lobster populations recover. We must teach policymakers, fishermen, and consumers about lobsters' challenges to ensure conservation efforts continue.

We hope you enjoyed this list of interesting lobster facts!

Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with L.

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1

Atema, J., & Steinbach, M. A. (2007). Chemical communication and social behavior of the lobster Homarus americanus and other decapod Crustacea. In Chemical Communication in Crustaceans (pp. 115-144). Springer, New York, NY.

2

Wade, N. M., Tollenaere, A., Hall, M. R., & Degnan, B. M. (2015). Evolution of a novel carotenoid-binding protein responsible for crustacean shell color. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32(6), 1523-1535.

3

Terwilliger, N. B. (1998). Functional adaptations of oxygen-transport proteins. Journal of Experimental Biology, 201(Pt 9), 1085-1098.

4

Factor, J. R. (1995). Biology of the lobster Homarus americanus. Academic Press.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Chinny Verana, BSc.

Photo by Leonardo Lamas on Pexels
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