These are akin to our taste buds, so a lobster can be said to taste with its feet. If it likes what it picks up, it passes the food along to its mouth where sensory bristles on its mouth parts also detect taste.
The shorter set of antennae, antennules, perceive distant odors or chemical signals carried by the seawater. These "chemoreceptors" help a lobster find food, choose a mate, and decide whether to fight or flee. Delicate hairs on the antennules have more than 400 types of receptors, sensitive enough to distinguish between a horse mussel and a blue mussel, for instance. If the antennules of a lobster are removed, it can only find food if it literally bumps into it.
Dr. Jelle Atema of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts has been studying the senses of lobsters for over twenty years. He is constantly amazed at how much information their chemical receptors can glean from the sea water. According to Dr. Atema, "They may enable the animal to detect the species, sex, and even the mood of another animal."
What color is a lobster?
There are always stories about people "from away" who, accustomed to seeing their lobsters cooked, are horrified by the color of a living lobster. They are sure it must be moldy. A live lobster is greenish-black on top and orange below, with accents of blue on the joints of its claws. That is because a lobster's shell is composed of three pigments: red, blue, and yellow.
When one or more of these pigments are missing at birth, a lobster may be red, blue, albino (white), or calico (dark with yellow spots). Blue lobsters occur once in every 3-4 million lobsters. Red lobsters (live ones) occur once in every 10 million. Except for albinos, all the color variations of lobsters turn red when they are cooked.
How big can lobsters grow?
Unlike a human, a lobster continues to grow throughout its life, although it molts less frequently as it grows older. Accounts from colonial times reported lobsters that were five to six feet long. The record for the largest documented lobster goes to a lobster taken off Nova Scotia in 1977. It weighed 44 lbs., 6 oz. and was between three and four feet long. It may have been 100 years old. The record for the largest lobster caught in Casco Bay (in the Gulf of Maine) is 36 lbs.
So many variables affect when a lobster will molt and grow that deducing the age of any lobster is little more than an educated guess.
(Lobster image source)
Gulf of Maine Curriculum Resources Table of Contents links