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Hour Staff Writer

Moving into a new neighborhood can be difficult, especially if you are different. But for one rare lobster, moving into the Maritime Aquarium cost him two legs.

In December, a calico lobster, or one that is a yellowish color with black spots spread randomly through out its shell, was found by local lobsterman Gary Matison and donated to the aquarium. But after a short stay in a display tank, the lobster's fishy neighbors, in a Mike Tyson-esque move, turned on it and ate two of its legs.

When the problem was discovered, the lobster was taken out of the tank and quarantined in a non-viewing area where it is currently "molting," or shedding its shell, according to Marcia Bittner, marketing director of the aquarium. The lobster, recovering from its earlier attack, was resting behind closed doors and was unavailable for a photograph.

" It's not unusual for this to happen when a fish is placed in a new environment," said Bittner.

Although the guilty parties have yet to be identified, Bittner said when the lobster is finished molting (and in the process, grows new appendages), it will be placed in a tank with other fish. At that point, it should be orientated enough to defend itself against attackers.

Penny Howell, senior fisheries biologist for the state of Connecticut, said it is unusual for a lobster to molt this time of the year, noting that most lobsters molt once during the fall and once during the spring. " But the transportation (from the wild to captivity) could throw its cues off," Howell said.

"Normally it doesn't have any light, but when it is put in the light, it will start the molting process."

When a lobster molts, it is highly vulnerable to attacks, Howell said. Other lobsters often attack each other when they are molting. The legs will grow back to during several moltings, she said.

Dr. Diane Cowan, senior scientist for the Lobster Conservatory based in Maine, said hungry fish will attempt to eat a lobster, and their success depends on the size of the fish compared to that of the lobster.

When a lobster molts, it comes out of its shell and grows a new one, along with new appendages if needed.

Lobsters molt frequently when young and then once every year as they age. The lobster's coloration could have something to do with its venerability, although studies have not been conducted to see the affects of calico coloring on survival rate.

However, blue and orange colored lobsters have been tested for survival rates, Cowan said, and the orange lobsters were more likely to be attacked or eaten than the blue lobsters. Ryan Flinn is the business editor.

He can be reached at 354-1047.

©2003 The Lobster Conservancy.
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