September 21, 2018
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Maine’s coast is filled with strange lobsters

Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Lola, a six-clawed lobster living at the Maine State Aquarium in Boothbay Harbor, is unique in that she has five claws on her left appendage alone.
By Christopher Burns, BDN Staff

There is nothing very remarkable about the common lobster. But, then, this is Maine, and the water is full of strange sights.

A rare “ghost” lobster was pulled from the waters off Maine’s coast last Tuesday morning. The translucent crustacean, though, is hardly the oddest looking creature a lobsterman ever hauled up from the ocean floor.

Lobsters, it turns out, come in all shapes and colors. Some with claws upon claws, and others two-toned, mottled and bright blue.

But don’t call them mutants. Each of them are all quite natural abnormalities known as bruchdreifachbildungen (because, of course, there is a German word for it). Scientists say these abnormalities form as a result of injuries that never properly healed.

They look absolutely weird, but we have it on authority that they are otherwise to safe to eat.

Two-face lobster

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
This lobster, almost exactly half-red, was caught by an Owl's Head lobsterman in 2013.

Lobstermen have been known to haul in some odd-colored crustaceans, but this half-red lobster was unusual even by their standards.

“We’ve caught a couple of calico ones, with orange and black spots, and we’ve seen some blue ones,” Anna Mason of Ship to Shore Lobster Co. told the Bangor Daily News in August 2013, “but I’d never seen one that was half-red like that, split right down the middle.”

Split-colored lobsters are estimated to occur only once out of every 50 million or more, according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland.

‘Ghost’ lobster

Courtesy of Mike Billings
Courtesy of Mike Billings
Lobster fisherman Mike Billings caught this pearlescent, semi-translucent lobster off the coast of Stonington. The lobster was too small, so he had to throw it back.

Only one other color combo is rarer than the two-face, and that’s a translucent lobster, dubbed the “ghost lobster.” These ghostly lobsters appear once in every 100 million of the creatures.

The unique coloration is likely caused by a genetic condition that results in the partial loss of pigmentation, according to the Associated Press.

One of these guys was pulled from the water off Stonington on Tuesday. Another was hauled up near Chebeague Island last August and a pair were caught near Rockland in 2014.

Calico lobster

Tony LaCasse | New England Aquarium
Tony LaCasse | New England Aquarium
A rare calico lobster that could be a 1-in-30 million, according to experts. The lobster, discovered by Jasper White’s Summer Shack and caught off Winter Harbor in 2012.

While not as rare a “ghost,” the calico lobster certainly is eye-catching. These creatures are hauled up every one in 30 million.

And one Winter Harbor lobsterman beat the odds when he hauled a lobster with bright orange and yellow spots, according to the Associated Press. That lobster beat the dinner plate, and wound up with a cushy pad at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

Blue lobster

Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
A blue lobster from the tank at the Kittery Point restaurant Pepperrell Cove in August. The restaurateurs asked people on Facebook what to do with the rare colored lobster, and followers urged the eatery to set him free.

Next to the translucent and calico lobsters, a blue lobster, while rare, isn’t anything special. Still, you are only likely to see one every 2 million lobsters.

Tan lobster

Paula Roberts | Lincoln County News
Paula Roberts | Lincoln County News
Two rare lobsters were brought in to the South Bristol Fisherman's Co-op this week. The blue one was caught by Brian Westhaver, of Nobleboro, and the tan one by Arnie Gamage, of South Bristol.

The color show continues with a tan lobster caught off South Bristol in 2014. Still not as rare as other color combos, but an usual sight nonetheless.

“I’ve been fishing for 40 years. I have caught red ones, black ones and blue ones, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Gamage told Lincoln County News in October 2014.

Claws upon claws

Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Lola, a six-clawed lobster living at the Maine State Aquarium in Boothbay Harbor, is unique in that she has five claws on her left appendage alone.

Without a doubt, the award for oddest-looking lobster goes to these guys. The multiple claws, though, are entirely natural and not the result of radiation or a science experiment gone awry.

They occur when a lobster molts and somehow signals get crossed as a new, larger shell hardens.

Lobsters can regrow limbs, and they may lose a claw during fights with other lobsters or marine creatures.

Sometimes, when a lobster suffers some sort of injury to a claw and then sheds its old shell in favor of a bigger one, a claw will get a mixed message — that a new limb needs to grow instead of simply a new shell just hardening. As a result, a second, or third, or fourth, or fifth set of pincers may sprout from a healing injury off the side of an existing claw.

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