With November fast approaching, it’s almost time for Lobsterfest at Turner’s! The largest promotional event of the year, Lobsterfest includes lots of great menu additions, all of which highlight the amazing flavor and incredible versatility of this classic New England delicacy. As we roll out this event, we will be featuring a series of posts on this classic New England favorite. This week, we’ve pulled together some fun facts about the basic biology and behavior of Homarus americanus.
The range of the American lobster stretches from Labrador to New Jersey. During migration, the animals are capable of transversing incredible distances across this region, especially when considering the mountains and valleys that make up the seafloor. These creatures normally live in depths of less than 50 meters but some have been seen as deep as 700 meters. Although lobsters can be found hugging the shoreline and in deep water all year round, a general annual migration takes place each year with higher abundance inshore during summer months when the water is warmer and a shift off-shore to avoid ocean turbulence during the cooler months of the year. Lobsters generally prefer a habitat with safe places to hide, which usually means they like to hide out in crevasses made by rocky bottoms. However, they can also be found on gravel and muddy bottoms, where they have been known to dig a bowl-like structure for shelter.
As a crustacean, lobsters have an exoskeleton and must molt in order to grow. Once a lobster has shed its shell it seeks shelter and remarkably absorbs enough sea water to increase its size by 20%. Soon after a shell begins to form the lobster shrinks back down to its original size and then proceeds to grow into its new shell. When caught commercially, lobsters are often separated into new shells, soft shells, and hard shells. The hard shells are considered the best quality since they are the strongest and offer the best yield. New and soft shells often posses a higher mortality rate and a lower meat to size ratio (yield).
Lobsters are scavengers and feed on mollusks, plants, fish, worms, and other crustaceans. They are known to eat their own shell after molting. Lobsters in captivity are especially cannibalistic which is why they must be banded.
Male and female lobsters are distinguishable by looking at their swimmerets on the underside of the tail. If the swimmeret pair closest to the body is hard and similar in size to the other pairs it is a male lobster. If the pair is softer, thinner, and smaller it is a female. Male lobsters mate with female soon after she has shed her shell.
A female lobster can carry in excess of 100,000 eggs. In order for a lobster egg to live it must bump into another lobster’s egg or another crustacean’s egg after it has been released from the mother’s underside. An incredible feat in the open ocean and the reason that scientists believe females congregate at the moment of this release. From here, the eggs hatch and float near the surface of the water column for 4-6 weeks. Those that survive will settle to the bottom and continue to develop as baby lobsters.
Over the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the history, harvesting methods, and preparation options for American lobster.