Orange and Black Lobster Arrives at New England Aquarium in Time For Halloween

As kids all over the country dress up and prepare to enjoy the treats they collect during Beggars’ Night, a lobster has joined the festivities at the New England Aquarium!

A lobster already “dressed” in Halloween colors–with an orange side and a black side perfectly split down the middle–recently arrived at the New England Aquarium. Last week, a lobsterman named Dana Duhaime from–believe it or not, Salem, MA–discovered the small, one pound female lobster in one of his traps in Bakers Channel off Beverly, MA. Beverly was once part of Salem and shares a harbor with the witch-renowned city.

Bill Murphy, a New England Aquarium biologist, picked up the seasonally colored crustacean on Sunday, but Hurricane Sandy delayed the lobster’s media debut until Halloween’s more appropriate time.

This has been an exceptional year for uniquely colored lobsters ranging from yellows to blues and calicos. “Split” lobsters are even more bizarre–and rare–as they can feature two distinct colors, one on each side.  Split lobsters are roughly estimated to occur once in every 50 to 100 million lobsters.  In the last ten years, splits have been caught in Maine and Rhode Island. This past summer, splits were discovered in both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Orange and black is the most common color array in splits as one side has the normal, very dark, live lobster coloration and the other side has a distinct pumpkin glow. The normal mottled dark brown/gray color of American lobsters is a product of red, yellow and blue pigments that are bound together by proteins. Orange lobsters or half-lobsters have their unusual color due to a lack of the blue pigment.

Split lobsters are roughly estimated to occur once in every 50 to 100 million lobsters. Photo credit: New England Aquarium.

Lobster scientists suspect that the bizarre duality of splits is caused by a complete cellular division when the lobster egg is first fertilized. Splits often show the sexual characteristics of both genders, but this lobster is a female.

Duhaime named the two-toned lobster Pinchy in honor of a giant lobster that appeared in a Simpsons TV episode.

After a quarantine period, the lobster will either be on exhibit in one of the Aquarium’s New England habitat tanks or used for live animal presentations.

Beyond its normal rarity and exceptional seasonally appropriate costume, this lobster also has impeccable timing and the perfect hometown!

Contributing writer: Tony LaCasse, New England Aquarium

Jennifer Fields

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