Commercial Fisheries News - August 2000

Lobsters follow their noses

Hunger is the driving force that motivates lobsters to climb into traps. Lobsters are olfactory predators. The lobster nose is located on the short pair of antennae called antennules located between the long prominent antennae.

The antennules allow lobsters to smell minute quantities of odor-producing chemicals. Scents are detected by receptors at the base of the tiny hairs fringing the edges of the antennules.

Although it may seem strange to think about smelling underwater, keep in mind that the insides of your nostrils are moist and hairy. Lobsters have an extremely keen sense of smell — more akin to that of a dog than that of a human.

Attracted by the smell of the baitfish, lobsters climb into the kitchen for a bite to eat. Lobsters can easily walk into the kitchen, grab a bit of bait, and leave. So why does the lobster venture into the parlor where it becomes trapped?

If a “hunting” lobster’s catch is small enough, he often carries it to a hiding place where he can feed undisturbed. When the lobster is finished eating, he buries the leftovers for later consumption. Perhaps the parlor looks like a good hiding place.

Why does a lobster select one trap over another? Curiosity. If you put a foreign object near a lobster, he’ll investigate. I think that may be why lobsters enter new trap designs or go to traps set in new areas.

I’ve watched lobsters in large aquaria. At night, they wander constantly, investigating every nook, cranny, and fellow lobster. It appears to be important for lobsters to know who and what is in their environment. Perhaps it helps them to keep track of where they’ve been and where they’re going.

Ask the Lobster Doc