American lobster (Homarus americanus) is an attractive crustacean found on North America’s Atlantic coast, mainly from North Carolina in the US to Labrador, Canada. Its other common names include Maine, true, Atlantic, Canadian, and northern lobster. These creatures are cherished by many seafood lovers worldwide for their succulent meat and distinctive flavor. However, they also play an important ecological role as predators and scavengers in their coastal habitat.
American lobsters’ unique appearance sets them apart from other living arthropod species. For example, they are the heaviest living arthropod species and the heaviest crustacean in the world. The American lobsters are also typically bluish-green to brown, which is a great way to distinguish them from their closest living relative, the European lobster. Read on to learn more about the American lobster’s appearance, habitat, diet, reproduction, threats, and interesting facts.
The American lobster is typically dark greenish-brown in color, with a hard exoskeleton that protects its soft, vulnerable body. However, you can observe a wide variety of color variations.
At the same time, the American lobster has long, spiny antennae measuring approximately 51 mm long and split into Y-shaped structures covered with nerve cells that sense odors. They also have five pairs of legs, with the front two pairs modified into large claws that they use for catching prey and defending themselves from predators.
The American lobster prefers rocky coastal habitats, where they can hide in crevices and hunt for prey in the surrounding waters. They are typically found at depths of up to 50 meters, although they have been known to venture as deep as 150 meters.
American lobsters are opportunistic feeders that will eat a wide range of prey, including fish, crabs, clams, and other shellfish. They occasionally scavenge on dead animals that have sunk to the seafloor. However, mollusks, polychaetes, and echinoderms dominate their diet across different habitats.
These lobsters are also typically nocturnal hunters. So they are great at using their strong sense of smell to locate prey at night.
American lobsters mate after the female has molted and her exoskeleton is soft. The female releases a substance known as pheromone into the water to trigger the males to begin a courtship.
Once the two are ready, the male uses his first pleopods to insert sperm packets into his counterpart’s seminal receptacle.
The females release thousands of eggs through the oviduct and are fertilized by the stored sperm. The eggs are then attached to the female’s abdomen with a sticky substance. After hatching, the young lobsters drift freely with ocean currents before settling on the floor and undergoing a series of molts as they grow into adults.
Bacterial infections like red-tail can cause the death of millions of otherwise healthy lobsters within minutes. Epizootic shell disease often causes black lesions on the lobster’s dorsal carapaces. This can reduce their salability and cause deaths.
American lobsters face other threats in the wild. While the industry is well-regulated, overfishing and other unsustainable practices can lead to declines in lobster populations.
The lobster’s habitat is also threatened by coast development and pollution from agriculture, industry, and other human activities.
Facts About the American Lobster
- American lobsters are famous for their distinctive claws, which can be used for defense and catching prey.
- These lobsters are not true scavengers but will eat dead animals that have sunk to the seafloor.
- American lobsters have a reputation for being unpleasant to eat. Nonetheless, they are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world when cooked properly.
- Their populations have been declining in some areas due to overfishing and other human activities, leading to concerns about the sustainability of the lobster fishery.
Are American lobsters actually lobsters?
Yes, American Lobsters are indeed lobsters. They belong to the family Nephropidae, which includes more than 50 species. It is the largest species of lobster found on the Atlantic coast of North America, ranging from Labrador in Canada to New Jersey in the United States. This species is also known as the Maine lobster, as it is heavily fished in the waters off the coast of Maine. Here, it is a special delicacy.
Is European lobster better than American lobster?
Not necessarily; whether European lobster or American lobster is better is a matter of personal preference. Both are considered delicacies and are enjoyed by seafood enthusiasts around the world. However, European lobsters are found in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, while American lobsters are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Labrador to North Carolina. Moreover, European lobsters are generally smaller in size compared to American lobsters.
How big is an American lobster?
American lobsters can vary in size. But on average, they measure around 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 cm) in length and weigh between 1 to 2 pounds (0.45 to 0.9 kg). However, they can grow much larger, with the largest recorded American lobster weighing in at 44 pounds (20 kg) and measuring 3 feet (0.9 meters) long from its claws to the tip of its tail.
What is the difference between a male and a female American lobster?
Male and female American lobsters can be distinguished by their swimmerets. These features are the small, feathery appendages on their tail’s underside. Males have larger, sturdier swimmerets. On the other hand, females have smaller, softer ones. At the same time, female lobsters have wider tails than males to accommodate their eggs.
Are American lobsters dangerous to handle?
While American lobsters are not inherently dangerous, they can be aggressive and have sharp claws that can pinch if not handled properly. To handle a lobster safely, grasp it firmly behind the claws and avoid putting your fingers or other body parts near its mouth or claws. If possible, avoid taking the risk.
Can American lobsters change color?
Yes, American lobsters can change color depending on their environment and mood. They can range in color from greenish-brown to blue-green to bright red and may turn darker or lighter depending on their surroundings. Some lobsters can also exhibit a bi-colored appearance. In this case, each side of the lobster has a different color.