What are the Odds of Finding a Blue Lobster?

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Anyone who has eaten a lobster is aware of the fact that they are red in color, this scrumptious seafood that is full of nutrients is enjoyed by many for its melt-in-the-mouth texture and slightly salty-sweet taste. But have you ever imagined that they can be of a variety of colors, only, you don’t get lucky enough to get them on your plates on a usual basis? 

Well, this favorite seafood comes in red, brown, yellow, purple, blue and even cotton-candy color. But no wonder you don’t see them often because chances of catching them in colors other than red is one in millions! As for the bottle blue lobster, you can find one in 2 millions!

Lobster: All About the Delectable Sea Treat

Though you are familiar with the red colored lobster, in their natural habitation, lobsters are found in many colors ranging from bright red, brown to green and blue and even two-shaded. These crustaceans are found in almost all seas of the world, but their numbers cannot be judged. However, so far 75 species of lobsters have been discovered by the scientists. [1]

What’s With the Color?

Lobster under the water, walking on sand

If you are wondering how come there are so many colors to lobsters, but you hardly catch any other than that of red color, the answer to this is simple. There are blue colored lobsters as well but they are only 1 in 2 million and the chance of catching them is 1 in 200 million!. [2] Not to forget that they are a very expensive delicacy for it is not always possible to catch them often. The price can go for as much as $500. [3]

The reason for lobsters to acquire a different color is very much similar to how humans have different complexions. The melanin in humans makes them white, brown, wheatish or black  similarly the “astaxanthin” is responsible for giving lobster a certain color.

How Lobster Gets the Color?

Basically, lobsters have 3 layers of primary colors: the red, blue and the yellow. These colors in layers help lobsters acquire a certain color or shade. The astaxanthin that the lobster gets from its food gets stored below the hard shell that protects the lobster. When these pigments interact with the hard shell, the proteins in the shell cause them to change color. Though the human eye only sees the brown color, in reality, each lobster has layers of colors with red in the skin and blue in the bottom of the shell, and orange at the top part of the hard shell.

These proteins define the color of the lobsters and as strange as it may sound, similar to humans, these crustaceans can be albinos too – the ones that do not have any color. But finding them is even more rare than finding a blue one! The chance of it is almost 1 in 100 million. [4]

Other Rare Colored Lobsters that Are Real

The rare kind of spotted lobster

Blue colored lobsters are not the only ones that are rare, the others that we do not find often are calico, albino or white, yellow, chimerical. The Table below shows the odds of finding the lobsters other than red and how many times are they caught.

Odds of Finding the Lobsters and How Many Times are They Caught

Color of Lobster Odds of Finding Them Quantity of Them Being Found
Blue 1 in 2 million 1-2 each year
Yellow 1 in 30 million 5 in last 10 years
Calico 1 in 30 million 3 in last 10 years
Chimerical 1 in 50 million 3 in last 50 years
Albino/White 1 in 100 million Only 1 in 2006 was found

The mutation in lobsters results in their coloration, but it is not known whether the mutation is caused by one colored lobster or it could happen with just any lobster, irrespective of the colors or the parent lobsters. Although it is fascinating to find lobsters in a variety of colors, these colors can affect the lobsters too. The example of this could be the fact that calicos often get hunted in the wild by other lobsters or marine predators as they cannot easily get camouflaged with their surroundings. [5]

Though the odds of finding the blue lobsters are one in 2 million, Patrick Shepard, the scientist at Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries claimed that he sees them every two weeks during the summers. [6] This is because of the fact that Maine is known for its lobsters, in 2018 alone more than $59 million worth of lobsters were transported from the port of Maine.

Why Finding a Blue Lobster is a Rarity?

the rare blue lobster

Though it is believed that blue lobsters are hard to find, some scientists do not agree with the claim. One of the researchers at England’s National Hatchery believes that their occurrence is not as rare as claimed, but it could be one in hundred thousand, while the scientist from Zoology Department of Oxford University staunchly believed that the claim of 1-in-2 million is in fact true. [7]

The thing that can be deduced from this is the fact that many people do not go fishing for lobsters often. So, when they do, it is not always a possibility to come across a blue lobster because it is not a common color to be found.

Interestingly European lobsters are blue in color but they are found in Europe and can be as large as 50cm! Though any lobster above 35 cm is rare in Europe, the lobster can weigh as much as 10 kg! While blue lobster is common in Europe, the rare blue lobster that is being discussed does not have the same blue color as that of the European’s. The European lobsters are dull deep blue with white dots on them, while the rare blue lobsters are bright bottle-blue in color and are also known as Maine Lobsters as they are found in Maine, though once in a blue moon.

But How Do They Get Found?

lobster sorting at fisheries

Usually, lobsters are exported as an expensive delicacy to be savored. The main exporters of lobsters are Canada, UAE, USA, Ireland and Denmark with Canada being the highest exporter. In 2021, Canada made $536M trade with lobsters, so, it is not unusual when two fishermen of Nova Scotia caught two bright blue lobsters! [8] Despite the fact that it was a rare occurrence, the fisheries and the research centers often are the first people who get lucky by catching rare species.

It is to be noted that it is usually not a common sight for casual fishermen or the hobbyists, but scientists of Maine often find the rare finds due to the nature of their work. When one catches a lobster in millions, it is certain that one or two of those millions will be the rare ones.

Rare Incidents When Some People Got Lucky

Sometimes people are in luck, imagine getting your hands on a blue lobster, won’t you feel as lucky as the people listed below?

  • While catching a blue lobster is in fact a rarity, one time in 2020, Clawdia, an employee at Red Lobster found one in a shipment, which of course she did not cook. It was later sent to Akron Zoo. [9]
  • Two fishermen got so lucky that they were able to catch two, not one, bright blue lobsters in Nova Scotia, that too, within 3 days.
  • Stuart Brown in Belfast caught the bright blue lobster in February 2023 but after taking pictures of the lobster, he let it go as the size of it was too small. [10]
  • In 2020, New England Aquarium was handed over a blue lobster by Patriot Seafoods. Because of its rarity, it was saved and sent to the aquarium instead of being cooked. [11]

Fun Facts About Lobsters

This scrumptious seafood is always liked for its unique flavor, but there are more reasons to learn about this unusual crustacean. It certainly has a personality of its own. Here are a few fun facts about lobsters worth nothing.

  • Blue Lobsters have weak eyesight. [12]
  • Lobsters grow by a unique method called molting whereby they shed their shells by absorbing water. This process can occur 25 times in the first 5 to 7 years of the lobster.
  • A female lobster can keep the sperm for a whopping 2 years.
  • One female can reproduce 3000-7500 eggs. [13]
  • Usually lobsters are not found red. It is only when they are cooked that they turn red because that pigment is the strongest of all the other pigments inside the lobster’s skin and shell.
  • Lobsters can eat other lobsters too.
  • Lobsters cannot survive in fresh water, for them to stay alive, sea water is essential.
  • The blood of the lobster is usually transparent; it is oxygen that makes it blue when it gets connected with it.
  • Their shells are so strong; they were once used to make golf balls. [14]

Conclusion:

Rare or not rare, the blue lobster certainly is one of the most beautiful creatures that exist in marine life. Though, in Maine their rarity has made them all the more expensive as a delicacy, a good $60 a pound, it is often seen that they are spared for being rare. It seems even they can get lucky for their color.

References

[1] Morgan, A. (2023, January 6). How many lobsters are there in the world. Online Field Guide. https://www.online-field-guide.com/how-many-lobsters-are-there-in-the-world

[2] Alund, N. N., & TODAY, U. (2022, August 16). Meet ‘Lucky blue’: 1-in-2-million bright blue lobster caught by father and son in Maine. USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/08/16/rare-bright-blue-lobster-captured-maine/10341458002/

[3] Jameson, A. (n.d.). 1 in 2 million: Another rare blue lobster caught in Maine. Z107.3. https://z1073.com/1-in-2-million-another-rare-blue-lobster-is-caught-in-maine/

[4] ‘One in 100 million’ albino lobster caught off coast of Guernsey. (2022, August 5). https://www.itv.com/. https://www.itv.com/news/channel/2022-09-05/a-rare-albino-lobster-has-been-caught-off-the-coast-of-guernsey

[5] Brahambhatt, R. (2023, April 29). A calico lobster? The science behind rare lobsters is mesmerizing. ZME Science. https://www.zmescience.com/feature-post/natural-sciences/animals/invertebrates/a-calico-lobster-the-science-behind-rare-lobsters-is-mesmerizing/

[6] Found in Maine: A 1-in-50 million lobster. (2019, October 1). The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/10/science/rare-lobster-found.html

 [7] Is there a 400 pound lobster out there? (2007, July 5). HowStuffWorks. https://animals.howstuffworks.com/marine-life/400-pound-lobster.htm

 [8] How rare are bright blue lobsters? (2016, May 24). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36369687

[9] Blue American lobster. (n.d.). Akron Zoo. https://www.akronzoo.org/fish/blue-american-lobster

 [10] Blue lobster: Belfast Lough fisherman lands rare crustacean. (2023, February 7). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-64552224

 [11] Donated rare blue lobster on view. (2020, February 20). New England Aquarium. https://www.neaq.org/blog/donated-rare-blue-lobster-on-view/

 [12] Ishak, N. (2022, October 27). Meet the one-in-Two-Million blue lobster that can sell for $500. All That’s Interesting. https://allthatsinteresting.com/blue-lobster

 [13] Fun facts about luscious lobsters. (n.d.). NOAA. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/outreach-and-education/fun-facts-about-luscious-lobsters.

[14] 11 lobster facts that will leave you shell-shocked. (2014, August 27). Time. https://time.com/3184569/11-lobster-facts-that-will-leave-you-shell-shocked/

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