BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — Even a “normal” lobster is considered by many to be on the freaky side of nature, but the Maine State Aquarium in Boothbay Harbor has one that even lobster experts have never seen.
Lola the six-clawed lobster arrived at the aquarium on Thursday after being caught off Hyannis, Mass., on the F/V Rachel Leah, a fishing boat that is featured on a television series called “Lobster Wars.” The crustacean was named by Peter Brown, who captains the Rachel Leah.
The 4-pound lobster, which has five claws in a handlike pattern on its left side and a normal claw on its right, would seem to be at an advantage if lobsters ever do go to war.
David Libby, who works at the aquarium as a marine scientist for the Department of Marine Resources and who has 40 years of experience working with animals of the ocean — which he said “apparently is not long enough” — said Lola is a first.
“Sometimes the genes will just get a little mixed and it will grow a funny claw,” he said. “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The lobster was donated to the aquarium and for the next few days will live in a holding tank of her own while she adjusts to her new surroundings. Aquarium manager Aimee Hayden-Roderiques said Lola will be moved to public display at the aquarium sometime next week, where she’ll be flanked by numerous other curiosities from the deep, including orange, blue and half-and-half lobsters.
“We’re kind of the place for unusual lobsters,” said Hayden-Roderiques. “We think the colored ones are about one in a million, but there’s no way to know.”
Colored lobsters are thought to be at a disadvantage at the bottom of the ocean because their bright colors single them out for predators. Whether Lola was at a disadvantage because of her mutated claw seems in doubt. Hayden-Roderiques and Libby estimate she’s about 10 years old. Whether her misshapen claw will survive Lola’s next molt remains to be seen.
“We’re not sure what will happen,” said Libby.
Lola is sure to attract attention at the aquarium. Hayden-Roderiques said “everyone who comes in wants to see the weird lobsters.” But there are other creatures that the aquarium’s staff find more fascinating, such as two triggerfish that are rarely seen north of the mid-Atlantic coast. Libby said late-summer water temperatures brought them north. Hayden-Roderiques said her favorites are some bulbous and pouting pufferfish.
“So many people think that all the colorful fish come from tropical water but when you come to the aquarium you realize the diversity we have right here off the coast of Maine,” she said.
The Maine State Aquarium, which attracts some 35,000 visitors a year, is located at 194 McKown Point Road in Boothbay Harbor. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, but closes for the season at the end of September. For information, call 633-9559.