September 18, 2019

Found in Maine: A 1-in-50 Million Lobster

Found in Maine: A 1-in-50 Million Lobster


Some lobsters aren’t meant for a roll.

That was the case for a rare two-toned lobster that was plucked recently from the icy waters off Stonington, Me., and which scientists say is a one-in-50 million find. The lobster, split from head to tail into halves of black and orange, was found in Penobscot Bay by Capt. Daryl Dunham when he was fishing in the coastal waters there, according to Patrick Shepard, a fishing scientist at the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries.

The fisherman donated the male crustacean to the center, where it will live in rarefied company for a few weeks. The center already has three other unusual lobsters in its tanks, including a blue lobster, a one-in-two million find, and two calico lobsters, whose shells resemble a constellation of orange and black and which people who fish have a one-in-30 million chance of catching.

The bifurcated shell is a result of a genetic anomaly, Mr. Shepard said. Aside from the four lobsters on display, he said, scientists there have seen other rare lobsters that are albino and yellow with black spots. Fishermen frequently bring them to the center, which has a teaching lab and where people can learn about lobsters and Maine’s fishing industry. About 7,000 people visited last year, he said.

Aside from its color, the two-toned lobster’s markings make it unique. Sometimes, the markings suggest the lobster has both male and female characteristics, said Richard Wahle, director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine.

He cautioned that colorful crustaceans appear more frequently in nature than people who don’t fish in Maine might expect. “There are blue, calico, brilliant red lobsters,” he said. “I’ve even seen a blue and calico blend. It’s pretty amazing.”

Mr. Shephard added, “We see a blue lobster every two weeks in the summer.”

If scientists in Stonington happen to see more unusual lobsters, there is good reason. It remains the busiest port for lobster fishing in the state. In 2018, $59.6 million worth of seafood passed through the port, according to numbers from Maine’s Department of Marine Resources reported in local news media. Mr. Shephard said most of that was lobster.

Center members are having fun with their newest crustacean. Mr. Shepard said an educator at the center had joked with visitors that the lobster is “half-baked.” (Lobsters turn orange when boiled.)

And the lobster won’t be there for long. Mr. Shephard said the lobster would be released back into the salty bay in two to three weeks along with the other lobsters in the tank.

And if someone else catches it? “They may let it go,” he said. “Or eat it.”



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