by Bill Ruhsam
Maine lobster feeds on fish, small crustaceans, and mollusks. It thrives in cold, shallow water. Its enemies include codfish, haddock, flounder, and other lobsters. Maine lobsters molt two to three times per year until they are fully mature, sometime between ages four and seven. When a lobster nears its molting stage, it will start to grow a new shell underneath its current one and the outer shell will darken. The line running along a lobster’s back begins to split and the two halves of the shell fall away. The inner shell is very soft and takes a couple of weeks to harden.
Female lobsters store sperm from male lobsters to fertilize their eggs later. When a female is ready to mate, usually right before molting, she looks for the den of a male to visit. Contrary to popular belief, lobsters do not mate for life. When a female is ready to molt, she will do so in the den of her chosen male. After the molt, the male will flip her over and get on top. The male has a pair of hardened fins on the underside of his tail that match a pair on the female. The sperm is transferred in a viscous blob down the fins into the female. The outside edge of the blob hardens to block the opening and store it in the female. Usually, the female will remain in the male’s den for a few days while her shell hardens fully. Lobsters are very vulnerable after molting so they like to remain in hiding away from predators. It is difficult to estimate a lobster’s age because they molt, but many lobsters live for up to fifty years.
A Maine lobster’s body is very unique. Instead of chewing its food in its mouth, a lobster chews it in his stomach. Three teeth-like grinders called a gastric mill perform this operation. Can you imagine how much faster you could eat if your stomach chewed your food? Since a lobster doesn’t have to bother chewing with his mouth, he uses it for other tasks like burrowing, carrying small rocks, or pulling himself around if he loses his claws and legs in a fight. Lobsters are able to grow back appendages it has lost. Wouldn’t that be a handy ability to posses? Two bladders located on either side of the lobster’s head not only work to release waste, but also communicate by scent who and where the lobsters are. Lobster’s project their urine like a fire hose in front of them to warn a rival or encourage a potential mate. They also pee at the entrance to their dens to announce they are at home.
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