Leaves
Leaves

This is not a lobster. Really, it’s not – it’s the exoskeleton of a lobster. An almost-perfect but entirely hollow representation of the animal - right down to the antennae and the eyes.

Lobsters moult their protective outer shells in order to grow. It’s hard work – some die of exhaustion in the process. The exoskeleton is made of chitin (a natural polymer related to glucose), which plays a similar role to keratin in humans (keratin forms our toe and finger nails). 

Living Coasts’ resident lobster is commonly referred to as Homer, though Keeper and Aquarist Tom Fielding has nick-named him Lemmy after the notorious Motorhead front man, as Homer has an abundance of attitude… or, in Tom’s words: “He’s damn feisty!” Four-year-old male Homer (or Lemmy) arrived in May 2016.

Lobsters may moult as many as 25 times in their first 5 to 7 years of life; after that, an adult lobster will moult once every one or two years. They may live for up to 50 years in the wild, and keep growing until they die. Homer has moulted before, but this latest effort is notable for being complete.

Lobsters are prized as a delicacy (don’t tell Homer), but maybe they’re just too amazing to eat. You want extraordinary? They don’t age like other creatures, they have a complex courtship ritual; they can swim backwards as well as forwards; they have no lungs and no vocal cords but they do have a voice – it’s a crackly noise some people compare to violins.

Lobsters often hide food like squirrels at night and then come back to it. They have also been observed having a tidy up and even gardening – and Homer is no exception. Tom says: “In the morning we often notice how things have been moved around the tank overnight, he’s clearly been busy! We like to put novel objects in there to keep him stimulated. Recently we put some washed-up kelp in his tank – it kept him busy for days. He decorated his cave with it overnight!”

And there’s more: they taste with their legs, chew with their stomachs and regenerate lost limbs… Three of their five pairs of legs have claws. Their blood is blue; they can repair their own DNA; they are found in every ocean. After all that, it’s surprising to find that their brains are no bigger than the tip of a ball-point pen… 

So, the next time you’re in a restaurant and there’s lobster Thermidor on the menu, just think before you order… 

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