14 Surprising Things Most People Never Learned About Lobsters

When you ask the average person to name their favorite type of animal, they seldom say “large marine crustaceans.” This is unfortunate, though, because lobsters are awesome and they aren’t getting the proper love and respect they deserve. Surely there are people out there other than Colin Farrell who can identify with the amazing lives of lobsters.

There is a multimillion dollar industry centered around the harvesting of these bottom-dwellers, but most people couldn't name any facts about lobsters other than they’re delicious. That’s a shame, because awesome lobsters are so much more than an expensive entree. They can live for decades, grow to incredible sizes, and may even offer solutions for dealing with environmental pollution. Before you write them off as creepy creatures of the sea, consider there may be some things you never knew about lobsters that could completely change your perspective.

Photo:

  • Lobster Was Once A Peasant's Food

    Lobsters are probably most famous for being a really expensive delicacy, but that was not always the case. Lobsters were once so abundant in North America the Native Americans would use them as fertilizer, bait, and a good source of protein. They showed the settlers how to cook lobster, a process that included wrapping them in seaweed and steaming them over a fire, which would eventually evolve into the famous New England clambake.

    In the early days of colonization, there were so many lobsters they became the staple food of servants, prisoners, and slaves. People were being fed so much lobster they revolted. Laws were passed limiting the amount of lobster that could be fed to prisoners, and many workers demanded in their contracts they were to only be fed lobster three times a week.

  • They Can Shoot Pee Out Of Their Eyes

    Females are known to squirt males with pungent urine in an effort to begin the courtship process. Dr. Ellen Prager, a marine biologist and professor, described the practice to NPR. "She shoots when she comes up to a den that might have a male in it. She actually seduces him with her pee and instead of clobbering her over the head with his claw, he says, 'Come in, come in' and gets all touchy-feely.”

    It’s not all about romance though. Lobster urine contains a lot of information, and spraying pee in someone's face is apparently a valid form of communication for them. Males have been known to pee in each other faces to display aggression and dominance over rivals. 

  • They Basically Don't Have A Brain

    Lobsters are simple minded creatures, and that's not a diss. Their brains are extremely primitive, closely resembling those of insects. Their "brains" are really just a cluster of nerves that regulate their entire existence. The collection of ganglia (nerve endings) that make up the brain is about the same size as a grasshopper brain. This lack of sophistication has led many to believe that lobsters actually can’t feel pain, although this claim has been disputed in the past.

  • They Can Taste For Prey With Their Legs

    Lobsters have a lot of limbs. Between the claws, legs, antennae, and swimmerets, it’s a wonder they can keep track of them all. Amazingly, the American lobster has two sets of legs that have the unique ability of being able to “taste” for their food. The tasting legs are set just behind the claws and are full of receptors designed to help the lobster locate food in the area. The legs are just a few of the sensory tools that lobsters use to detect prey, the others being their antennae, eyes, and mouths.

  • When Mating, Females Have All The Power

    Lobster mating is a complicated process, but one that empowers the females. Mating is almost always instigated by the females, who release sex pheromones to inform nearby males they are ready to mate. Lobster males will often fight for a female, and the victor will watch over the her until she completes a molt. To have sex, the females must remove their exoskeleton before mating. Essentially, they strip for their partners. The males will spend up to two weeks protecting their mates from predators while they are naked and vulnerable.

    Sex is no guarantee that the male's genes will be passed on, however. Female lobsters are able to hold onto a male’s sperm for up to 15 months and decide when is the right time to lay their eggs. They can store between 5,000 and 100,000 eggs under their tails until they are ready to hatch.

  • They Live For A Long Time And Never Stop Growing

    They Live For A Long Time And Never Stop Growing
    Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0

    In 2013, the Internet exploded with articles about how lobsters are functionally immortal. This isn't entirely true. It's based on the fact that lobsters do live a long time. The lifespan of European lobsters (Homarus gammarus) averages about 31 years for males and an astounding 54 years for the females, with some making it past the ripe old age of 70.

    The misconception that lobsters can live forever is most likely due to their slow rate of senescence, or the process of aging. Lobsters never stop growing throughout their life, unlike mammals who grow rapidly during their adolescence but stop once they hit adulthood. This slow-but-steady approach to growth reduces the rate of decay in the lobsters' cells and allows them to live for a long time. The largest lobster ever recorded was a 44 lb monster caught off the coast of Nova Scotia. In the US, the biggest lobsters are thrown back to help bulk up the gene pool.