Comes Out of Its Shell
It wasn’t easy for our two-toned lobster to look so radiant after its recent extreme makeover. About two weeks ago, the lobster, which arrived at the Aquarium in October 2012, finished an important step in the molting process by shedding its old shell, which can be seen in the photo below under its left claw.
A lobster molts when it needs to grow, as its shell does not grow along with it. How often lobsters molt is dependent on the temperature of the water around it, its food supply, its age, and its environment. Young lobsters molt frequently, but as they age, lobsters molt less and less frequently. Our two-toned lobster, named Pinchy by the lobsterman who donated it to the Aquarium, has molted every few years. And when it does – wow! – its new shell shines and shows off its extraordinary perfectly split colors. This type of lobster is extremely rare, occurring in about 1 in every 100 million lobsters. Among those rare two-toned lobsters, orange and black is the most common combination.
The process of molting can be quite challenging for a lobster. When a lobster is ready to molt, its tissues begin to shrink in size by expelling water. The new shell has already formed underneath the old shell, but it is soft. The old shell then starts to separate from the body, creating a small hole at the midpoint of the animal’s body. The lobster has to pull its entire body through that small hole and out of the old shell. It can take up to two hours for a lobster to shake off its old shell. While in this process, the lobster is in danger in the wild as it can’t maneuver well or defend itself. It will usually try to find or build a cave for shelter and protection.
Once the old shell is off, the lobster will remain in a safe dwelling as it is still vulnerable until its new shell hardens, which can take several weeks. Often during this time, the lobster will eat its old shell to replace needed nutrients to strengthen its new shell.
Visit the Aquarium and see the magnificent new colors of our two-toned lobster.