Lobster: Wikis


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Fossil range: Valanginian–Recent
American lobster, Homarus americanus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Suborder: Pleocyemata
Infraorder: Astacidea
Family: Nephropidae
Dana, 1852
Genera [1]
  • Acanthacaris Bate, 1888
  • Eunephrops Smith, 1885
  • Homarinus Kornfield, Williams & Steneck, 1995
  • Homarus Weber, 1795
  • HoplopariaM’Coy, 1849
  • JagtiaTshudy & Sorhannus, 2000
  • Metanephrops Jenkins, 1972
  • Nephropides Manning, 1969
  • Nephrops Leach, 1814
  • Nephropsis Wood-Mason, 1873
  • OncopareiaBosquet, 1854
  • PalaeonephropsMertin, 1941
  • ParaclythiaFritsch & Kafka, 1887
  • Pseudohomarusvan Hoepen, 1962
  • Thaumastocheles Wood-Mason, 1874
  • Thaumastochelopsis Bruce, 1988
  • Thymopides Burukovsky & Averin, 1977
  • Thymops Holthuis, 1974
  • Thymopsis Holthuis, 1974

Clawed lobsters comprise a family (Nephropidae, sometimes also Homaridae) of large marine crustaceans. Lobsters are economically important as seafood, forming the basis of a global industry that nets more than US$1 billion annually.[2]

Though several groups of crustaceans are known as "lobsters," the clawed lobsters are most often associated with the name. They are also revered for their flavor and texture. Clawed lobsters are not closely related to spiny lobsters or slipper lobsters, which have no claws (chelae), or squat lobsters. The closest relatives of clawed lobsters are the reef lobsters and the three families of freshwater crayfish.

The fossil record of clawed lobsters extends back at least to the Valanginian Age of the Cretaceous [3].



Lobsters are found in all oceans. They live on rocky, sandy, or muddy bottoms from the shoreline to beyond the edge of the continental shelf. They generally live singly in crevices or in burrows under rocks.

They are invertebrates, with a hard protective exoskeleton. Like most arthropods, lobsters must molt in order to grow, which leaves them vulnerable. During the molting process, several species change color. Lobsters have 10 walking legs; the front two adapted to claws.

As arthropods, lobsters have not developed the nervous system of cephalopod mollusks, nor do they have the advantages of good eyesight. They do, however, exhibit three remarkable evolutionary advances that have led to their great success. Their exoskeleton is a strong, lightweight, form-fitted external covering and support. They possess striated muscle: quick, strong, and lightweight, it enables rapid movement. Finally, articulated appendages allow their limbs to bend at specific points.

Lobsters are omnivores, and typically eat live prey such as fish, mollusks, other crustaceans, worms, and some plant life. They scavenge if necessary, and may resort to cannibalism in captivity; however, this has not been observed in the wild. Although lobster skin has been found in lobster stomachs, this is because lobsters eat their shed skin after molting.[4]

Although clawed lobsters, like most other arthropods, are largely bilaterally symmetrical, they often possess unequal, specialized claws, like the king crab. The claw of a freshly caught lobster is full and fleshy, not atrophied. Lobster anatomy includes the cephalothorax which fuses the head and the thorax, both of which are covered by the chitinous carapace and the abdomen. The lobster's head consists of antennae, antennules, mandibles, the first and second maxillae, and the first, second, and third maxillipeds. Because lobsters live in a murky environment at the bottom of the ocean, they mostly use their antennae as sensors. The lobster eye has a reflective structure atop a convex retina. In contrast, most complex eyes use refractive ray concentrators (lenses) and a concave retina.[5] The abdomen includes swimmerets and its tail is composed of uropods and the telson.

Lobsters, like snails and spiders, have blue blood due to the presence of haemocyanin, which contains copper.[6] (In contrast, mammals and many other animals have red blood from iron-rich haemoglobin.) Lobsters possess a green organ, called tomalley by chefs, which serves as the hepatopancreas, functioning as both liver and pancreas.[7]

In general, lobsters are 25–50 centimetres (9.8–20 in) and move by slowly walking on the bottom of the sea floor. However, when they flee, they swim backwards quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomen. A speed of five meters per second (about 11 mph) has been recorded.[8] This is known as the caridoid escape reaction.


Animals of the genus Symbion, the only member of the animal phylum Cycliophora, live on lobster gills and mouthparts.[9] To date it has only been found associated with lobsters.


Recent research has led scientists to believe that lobsters may be one of a small number of species which do not die of aging. Lobsters do not slow down, weaken, or lose fertility with age. In fact, older lobsters are more fertile than younger lobsters. The reason for this indefinite longevity is said to be due to telomerase, an enzyme that repairs DNA sequences of the form "TTAGGG".[10] This sequence is often referred to as the telomeres of the DNA.[11][12] In fact, lobsters may exhibit negligible senescence, in that they effectively live indefinitely, barring injury, disease, capture, etc.[13] They can thus reach impressive sizes. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest lobster was caught in Nova Scotia, Canada, and weighed 20.15 kilograms (44.4 lb).


Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 410 kJ (98 kcal)
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Dietary fibre 0 g
Fat 0.59 g
saturated 0.107 g
monounsaturated 0.091 g
polyunsaturated 0.16 g
Protein 20.5 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0 mg (0%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 4 mg (267%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 4 mg (27%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 2 mg (40%)
Vitamin B6 4 mg (308%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 2 μg (1%)
Vitamin C 0 mg (0%)
Calcium 6 mg (1%)
Iron 2 mg (16%)
Magnesium 8 mg (2%)
Phosphorus 15 mg (2%)
Potassium 0 mg (0%)
Zinc 15 mg (150%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database
Steamed whole lobster, with claws cracked and tail split.
Photo of restaurant table holding a platter featuring unshelled lobster legs and claws
A dish including a European lobster, Dubrovnik
Photo of split lobster claw on plate, covered by onions
Japanese lobster served in butter sauce

Lobster recipes include Lobster Newberg and Lobster Thermidor. Lobster is used variously, for example in soup, bisque or lobster rolls. Lobster meat may be dipped in clarified butter, resulting in a sweetened flavor.

Cooks boil live lobsters in water or steam. The lobster simmers for seven minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each additional pound.[14]

Lobsters are also fried, grilled, or baked.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the mean level of mercury in American lobster is 0.31 ppm, which is moderately high.[15]

Lobsters are sold alive with claws strapped or banded to prevent them from injuring each other or people. The banding causes the claws to gradually atrophy. Lobsters may be prepared and cooked while alive; removing their claws may not kill them. As with all shellfish, lobster is not kosher. The majority of the meat is in the tail and the two front claws. The legs and torso contain smaller quantities. Freezing the lobster may toughen the meat. A common misconception is that a lobster screams when boiled; actually the whistling sound is steam escaping the shell.


The European wild lobster, including the royal blue lobster of Audresselles, is more expensive and rare than the American lobster. It was consumed chiefly by the royal and aristocratic families of France and the Netherlands. Such scenes were depicted in Dutch Golden Age paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In North America, the American lobster did not achieve popularity until the mid-19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostonians developed a taste; not until the invention of a special vessel, the lobster smack, did a commercial fishery flourish.[16] Prior to this time, lobster was considered a mark of poverty or as a food for indentured servants or lower members of society in Maine, Massachusetts and the Canadian Maritimes, and servants specified in employment agreements that they would not eat lobster more than twice per week.[17] In Canada, outside of the rural outposts lobster was sold canned. New England's fresh lobster trade extended as far as Philadelphia.

The lobster market changed once the transportation industry could deliver live lobsters to urban centers. Fresh lobster became a luxury food and a tourist attraction for the Maritime provinces and a luxury export to Europe and Japan where it is especially expensive.

Lobster's high price led to the creation of "faux lobster". It is often made from pollock or other whitefish. A few restaurants sell "langostino lobster". Langostino translates into prawn; the actual animal may be crab. The spiny lobster is also called langouste.

Capacity for pain

Due to the ambiguous nature of suffering, the issue of lobster pain may be argued by analogy—that lobster biology is similar to human biology or that lobster behavior warrants assumptions that lobsters can feel pain.[18]

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety tentatively concluded that "it is unlikely that [lobsters] can feel pain," though they note that "there is apparently a paucity of exact knowledge on sentience in crustaceans, and more research is needed." This conclusion is based on the lobster's simple nervous system. The report assumes that the violent reaction of lobsters to boiling water is a reflex to noxious stimuli.[19]

However, review by the Scottish animal rights group Advocate for Animals released the same year reported that "scientific evidence ... strongly suggests that there is a potential for [lobsters] to experience pain and suffering," primarily because lobsters (and other decapod crustaceans) "have opioid receptors and respond to opioids (analgesics such as morphine) in a similar way to vertebrates," indicating that lobsters' reaction to injury changes in the presence of painkillers. The similarities in lobsters' and vertebrates' stress systems and behavioral responses to noxious stimuli were given as additional evidence.[18]

A 2007 study at Queen's University, Belfast, suggested that crustaceans do feel pain.[20] In the experiment, when prawn antennae were rubbed with sodium hydroxide or acetic acid, the animals showed increased grooming of the afflicted area and rubbed it more against the side of the tank. Moreover, this reaction was inhibited by a local anesthetic, even though control prawns treated with only anesthetic did not show reduced activity. Professor Robert Elwood, who headed the study, argues that sensing pain is crucial to prawn survival, because it encourages them to avoid damaging behaviors. Some scientists responded, saying the rubbing may reflect an attempt to clean the affected area.[21]

In a 2009 study, Prof. Elwood and Mirjam Appel showed that hermit crabs make motivational tradeoffs between shocks and the quality of the shells they inhabit.[22] In particular, as crabs are shocked more intensely, they become increasingly willing to leave their current shells for new shells, and they spend less time deciding whether to enter those new shells. Moreover, because the researchers did not offer the new shells until after the electrical stimulation had ended, the behavior change resulted from memory of the noxious event, not an immediate reflex.


Photo of abstract lobster sculpture
Moche lobster, 200 A.D., Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru

In vertebrates, endogenous opioids are neurochemicals that moderate pain by interacting with opiate receptors. Opioid peptides and opiate receptors occur naturally in crustaceans, and although The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety claims that “at present no certain conclusion can be drawn,”[19] critics interpret their presence as an indication that lobsters experience pain.[18][19] The aforementioned Scottish paper holds that vertebrates and lobsters' opioids may "mediate pain in the same way".[18]

Morphine, an analgesic, and naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist, may affect a related species of crustacean (Chasmagnathus granulatus) in much the same way they affect vertebrates: injections of morphine into crabs produced a dose-dependent reduction of their defensive response to an electric shock.[23] (However, the attenuated defensive response could originate from either the analgesic or sedative properties of morphine, or both.)[24] These findings have been replicated for other invertebrate species,[24] but similar data is not yet available for lobsters.

Animal welfare issues

The most common way of killing a lobster is by placing it, live, in boiling water, or by splitting: severing the body in half, lengthwise.

The boiling method (also used to kill crabs, crayfish and shrimp) is controversial because some believe that the lobster suffers. The practice is illegal in some places, such as in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where offenders face fines of up to 495.[25] The Norwegian study states that the lobster may be de-sensitized by placing it in a salt solution 15 minutes before killing it.

In 2006, British inventor Simon Buckhaven invented the Crustastun, which electrocutes lobsters with a 110 V electric shock, killing them in five seconds. This ensures a quicker death for the lobster. Seafood wholesalers in Britain use a commercial version. A home version was released to the public in about 2006.

Fishery and aquaculture

Photo of four fishing boats, moored two abreast, to dock
Fishing boats in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Lobsters are caught using baited, one-way traps with a color-coded marker buoy to mark cages. Lobster is fished in water between 1 and 500 fathoms (2 and 900 m), although some lobsters live at 2,000 fathoms (3,700 m). Cages are of plastic-coated galvanized steel or wood. A lobster fisher may tend as many as 2,000 traps. Around the year 2000, due to overfishing and high demand, lobster farming expanded.[26] As of 2008, no lobster farming operation had achieved commercial success.

In human culture

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped the sea and its animals. Moche art often depicted lobsters.[27]

Lobsters dance a "Lobster Quadrille" in the eponymous chapter of Lewis Carroll's famous book Alice in Wonderland. It and the related lobster poems can be read here: "Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?" and "Tis the voice of the Lobster; I heard him declare." [28]

List of clawed lobster species

This list contains all extant species in the family Nephropidae:[29]

  • Metanephrops thomsoni
  • Metanephrops velutinus
  • Nephropides caribaeus
  • Nephrops norvegicus — Norway lobster
  • Nephropsis acanthura
  • Nephropsis aculeata — Florida lobsterette
  • Nephropsis agassizii
  • Nephropsis atlantica
  • Nephropsis carpenteri
  • Nephropsis ensirostris
  • Nephropsis hamadai
  • Nephropsis holthuisii
  • Nephropsis macphersoni
  • Nephropsis malhaensis
  • Nephropsis neglecta
  • Nephropsis occidentalis
  • Nephropsis rosea
  • Nephropsis serrata
  • Nephropsis stewarti
  • Nephropsis suhmi
  • Nephropsis sulcata
  • Thymopides grobovi
  • Thymops birsteini
  • Thymopsis nilenta


  1. ^ Sammy De Grave, N. Dean Pentcheff, Shane T. Ahyong et al. (2009). "A classification of living and fossil genera of decapod crustaceans". Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Suppl. 21: 1–109. http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/rbz/biblio/s21/s21rbz1-109.pdf. 
  2. ^ "Homarus americanus, American lobster". McGill University. 27 June 2007. http://www.geog.mcgill.ca/climatechange/ReportsMap/lobsterRpt.pdf. 
  3. ^ Dale Tshudy, W. Steven Donaldson, Christopher Collom, Rodney M. Feldmann & Carrie E. Schweitzer (2005). "Hoploparia albertaensis, a new species of clawed lobster (Nephropidae) from the Late Coniacean, shallow-marine Bad Heart Formation of northwestern Alberta, Canada". Journal of Paleontology 79 (5): 961–968. doi:10.1666/0022-3360(2005)079[0961:HAANSO2.0.CO;2]. 
  4. ^ "Homarus americanus, Atlantic lobster". MarineBio.org. http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=533. Retrieved December 27, 2006. 
  5. ^ M. F. Land (1976). "Superposition images are formed by reflection in the eyes of some oceanic decapod Crustacea". Nature 263: 764–765. doi:10.1038/263764a0. 
  6. ^ "Copper for life - Vital copper". Association for Science Education. http://resources.schoolscience.co.uk/cda/11-14/biology/copch31pg1.html. 
  7. ^ Shona Mcsheehy & Zoltán Mester (2004). "Arsenic speciation in marine certified reference materials". Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 19: 373. doi:10.1039/b314101b. http://www.rsc.org/delivery/_ArticleLinking/DisplayArticleForFree.cfm?doi=b314101b&JournalCode=JA. 
  8. ^ "The American lobster — frequently asked questions". St. Lawrence Observatory, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. October 19, 2005. http://www.osl.gc.ca/homard/en/faq.html. 
  9. ^ M. Obst, P. Funch & G. Giribet (2005). "Hidden diversity and host specificity in cycliophorans: a phylogeographic analysis along the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea". Molecular Ecology 14: 4427–4440. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02752.x. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02752.x. 
  10. ^ John W. Kimball (November 25, 2008). "Telomeres". http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/T/Telomeres.html. 
  11. ^ Jacob Silverman. "Is there a 400 pound lobster out there?". howstuffworks. http://animals.howstuffworks.com/marine-life/400-pound-lobster.htm/printable. 
  12. ^ David Foster Wallace (2005). Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-31-615611-6. 
  13. ^ John C. Guerin (2006). "Emerging area of aging research: long-lived animals with "negligible senescence"". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1019 (1): 518–520. doi:10.1196/annals.1297.096. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1196/annals.1297.096. 
  14. ^ "Cooking lobsters". Atwood Lobster Company. http://www.atwoodlobster.com/site/cookinglobster.asp. Retrieved June 30, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish". Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/Seafood/FoodbornePathogensContaminants/Methylmercury/ucm115644.htm. Retrieved December 25, 2009. 
  16. ^ Colin Woodard (2004). The Lobster Coast. New York: Viking/Penguin. pp. 170–180. ISBN 0-670-03324-3. http://www.colinwoodard.com/lobstercoast. 
  17. ^ "How lobster went up in the world". The Times. October 24, 2005. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article581926.ece. 
  18. ^ a b c d Cephalopods and decapod crustaceans: their capacity to experience pain and suffering. Advocates for Animals. 2005. http://www.advocatesforanimals.org.uk/pdf/crustreport.pdf. 
  19. ^ a b c L. Sømme (2005). "Sentience and pain in invertebrates: Report to Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety". Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo. 
  20. ^ Stuart Barr, Peter R. Laming, Jaimie T. A. Dick, Robert W. Elwood (2008). "Nociception or pain in a decapod crustacean?". Animal Behaviour 75 (3): 745–751. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.07.004. http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/images/2007/11/study.pdf. 
  21. ^ Ian Sample (November 8, 2007). "Blow for fans of boiled lobster: crustaceans feel pain, study says". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/nov/08/animalrights.sciencenews. 
  22. ^ Robert W. Elwood, Mirjam Appel (2009). "Pain experience in hermit crabs?". Animal Behaviour 77: 1243–1246. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.01.028. http://www.mbl.edu/research/services/iacuc/pdf/pain_hermit_crabs.pdf. 
  23. ^ M. Lozada, A. Romano & H. Maldonado (1988). "Effect of morphine and naloxone on a defensive response of the crab Chasmagnathus granulatus". Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 30 (3): 635–640. doi:10.1016/0091-3057(88)90076-7. 
  24. ^ a b V. E. Dyakonova (2001). "Role of opioid peptides in behavior of invertebrates". Journal of Evolutionary Biochemistry and Physiology 37: 335–347. doi:10.1023/A:1012910525424. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maik/joey/2001/00000037/00000004/00366536. 
  25. ^ Bruce Johnston (March 6, 2004). "Italian animal rights law puts lobster off the menu". Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/03/07/wlob07.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/03/07/ixworld.html. 
  26. ^ Asbjørn Drengstig, Tormod Drengstig & Tore S. Kristiansen. "Recent development on lobster farming in Norway — prospects and possibilities". UWPhoto ANS. http://articles.uwphoto.no/articles_folder/lobster_farming_in_Norway.htm. 
  27. ^ Katherine Berrin & Larco Museum (1997). The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0500018026. 
  28. ^ Lewis Carroll. "Chapter X: The Lobster Quadrille". Alice in Wonderland. http://www.hoboes.com/html/FireBlade/Carroll/Alice/Wonder/alice10.html. 
  29. ^ Dale Tshudy (2003). "Clawed lobster (Nephropidae) diversity through time". Journal of Crustacean Biology 23: 178–186. doi:10.1651/0278-0372(2003)023[0178:CLNDTT2.0.CO;2]. http://www.bioone.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&issn=0278-0372&volume=023&issue=01&page=0178. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'LOBSTER (O.E.' lopustre, lopystre, a corruption of Lat. locusta, lobster or other marine shell-fish; also a locust), an' edible crustacean found on the coasts of the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. The name is sometimes loosely applied to any of the larger Crustacea of the order Macrura, especially to such as are used for food.

The true lobsters, forming the family Homaridae, are distinguished from the other Macrura by having the first three pairs of legs terminating in chelae or pincers. The first pair are large and massive and are composed of six segments, while the remaining legs are each composed of seven segments. The sternum of the last thoracic somite is immovably united with the preceding. This last character, together with some peculiarities of the branchial system, distinguish the lobsters from the freshwater crayfishes. The common lobster (Homarus gammarus or vulgaris) is found on the European coasts from Norway to the Mediterranean. The American lobster (Homarus americanus), which should perhaps be ranked as a variety rather than as a distinct species, is found on the Atlantic coast of North America from Labrador to Cape Hatteras. A third species, found at the Cape of Good Hope, is of small size and of no economic importance.

Both in Europe and in America the lobster is the object of an important fishery. It lives in shallow water, in rocky places, and is usually captured in traps known as lobster-pots, or creels, made of wickerwork or of hoops covered with netting, and having funnel-shaped openings permitting entrance but preventing escape. These traps are baited with pieces of fish, preferably stale, and are sunk on ground frequented by lobsters, the place of each being marked by a buoy. In Europe the lobsters are generally sent to market in the fresh state, but in America, especially in the northern New England states and in the maritime provinces of Canada, the canning of lobsters is an important industry. The European lobster rarely reaches 10 pounds in weight, though individuals of 14 pounds have been found, and in America there are authentic records of lobsters weighing 20 to 23 pounds.

The effects of over-fishing have become apparent, especially in America, rather in the reduced average size of the lobsters caught than in any diminution of the total yield. The imposition of a close time to protect the spawning lobsters has been often tried, but as the female carries the spawn attached to her body for nearly twelve months after spawning it is impossible to give any effective protection by this means. The prohibition of the capture of females carrying spawn, or, as it is termed,"in berry," is difficult to enforce. A minimum size, below which it is illegal to sell lobsters, is fixed by law in most lobster-fishing districts, but the value of the protection so given has also been questioned.

The Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) is found, like the common lobster, from Norway to the Mediterranean. It is a smaller species, with long and slender claws and is of an orange colour, often beautifully marked with red and blue. It is found in deeper water and is generally captured by trawling. It is a curious and unexplained fact that nearly all the individuals so captured are males. It is less esteemed for food than the common species. In London it is sold under the name of "Dublin prawn." The rock lobster, spiny lobster, or sea-crawfish (Palinurus vulgaris) belongs to the family Palinuridae, distinguished from the Homaridae by the fact that the first legs are not provided with chelae or pincers, and that all the legs possess only six segments. The antennae are very long and thick. It is found on the southern and western coasts of the British Islands and extends to the Mediterranean. It is highly esteemed for the table, especially in France, where it goes by the name of Langouste. Other species of the same family are used for food in various parts of the world, especially on the Pacific coast of North America and in Australia and New Zealand.

In Melbourne and Sydney the name of "Murray lobster" is given to a large species of crayfish (Astacopsis spinifer, formerly known as Astacus, or Potamobius serratus) which is much used for food. (W. T. CA.)

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Simple English

American lobster, Homarus americanus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Family: Nephropidae
Dana, 1852
Subfamilies and Genera
  • Neophoberinae
    • Acanthacaris
  • Thymopinae
    • Nephropsis
    • Nephropides
    • Thymops
    • Thymopsis
  • Nephropinae
    • Homarus
    • Nephrops
    • Homarinus
    • Metanephrops
    • Eunephrops
    • Thymopides

Lobsters are large crustaceans that live in the sea. They form the family of Nephorpidae, which is sometimes also called Homaridae. Lobsters are an economically important type of seafood.


Several different groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters. When people talk about lobsters, they mean clawed lobsters most of the time, such as the genus Homarus. Clawed lobsters are not closely related to spiny lobsters or slipper lobsters, which have no claws (chelae), or squat lobsters. The closest relatives of clawed lobsters are the reef lobster Enoplometopus and the three groups of freshwater crayfish.

Smaller kinds are sometimes called "lobsterettes". Lobsters are invertebrates, and have a hard exoskeleton (outer skeleton), which protects them. Like most arthropods, lobsters must shed it in order to grow. This is called moulting. It makes them weak and easy to attack during this time. When they are moulting, some species' colors might change.

Lobsters live on rocky, sandy, or muddy bottoms from the shore to beyond the edge of the continental shelf. They usually live alone in cracks or in burrows under rocks.

Lobsters usually eat live food, consisting of fish, mollusks, other crustaceans, worms, and some plant life. Sometimes, they will scavenge (eat dead plants and animals) if necessary, and may each other when they are in captivity; however, this has not been observed in the wild. Lobster skin in the stomachs of lobsters has been found before, although this is because lobsters will eat their shed skin after molting  [1]. Lobsters grow throughout their lives and it is not unusual for a lobster to live for more than 100 years [2]. They can thus reach impressive sizes. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest lobster was caught in Nova Scotia, Canada and weighed 20.14 kg (44.4 lb).

Being arthropods, lobsters are largely bilaterally symmetrical (they are the same on the left and right sides). Clawed lobsters often have unequal, specialized claws, like the king crab. A freshly caught lobster will have a claw that is full and fleshy, not small. Lobsters have the cephalothorax which is the head connected to the thorax, both of which are covered by the carapace , of chitinous composition, and the abdomen. The lobster's head has two pairs of antennae, three pairs of jaws. Because a lobster lives in a murky environment at the bottom of the ocean, its eyesight is poor and it mostly uses its antennae to feel around. Studies have shown that the lobster eye is formed with a reflective structure at the top a rounded retina (eye part). In contrast, most complex eyes use lenses that change the direction of rays and a inward-curving retina [3]. The abdomen of the lobster includes swimming legs and a tail fan.

In general, lobsters move slowly by walking on the bottom of the sea floor. However, when they are in danger and need to escape, they swim backwards quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomen. A speed of 5 metres per second has been recorded.


  1. "Homarus americanus, Atlantic lobster". http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=533. Retrieved 2006. 
  2. David Foster Wallace (2005). Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-31-615611-6. 
  3. Land, M. F. (1976). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Superposition images are formed by reflection in the eyes of some oceanic decapod Crustacea"]. Nature 263: 764-765. 

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