Sustaining a thriving lobster fishery through science and community.


Lobster Biology

Table of Contents Introduction
What's in a name?
Body Plan
Physiological Processes
   Molting & Growth
   Nervous & Sensory Systems
   Muscular System & The Lobster's Tail
Life Cycle
Larvae & PostLarvae
The Lobster's Future


When one thinks of lobsters, usually it's in a romantic setting: at a candlelit table with the creatures piled on top of a plate ready for consumption. It's a dish fit for queens, emperors, and the like and has a rich history of use. Some cultures even considered the lobster an aphrodisaic, enhancing the power and charms of men, while for women it enhanced conception.

Lobsters appear in the art or folklore of many cultures. For example, the Romans portrayed lobsters, along with other edible sea creatures, on mosaic floors that formed part of domestic and public decoration. The mosaic dramas even depicted battles to-the-death between lobsters and wily octopuses. Helmets worn by warriors immortalized the strength of the lobster. Around 1630, a new Turkish helmet, the Zischägge, or "lobster tail", was being used in Eastern Europe. It had overlapping steel plates over the neck guard, providing both protection and ventilation for the neck. The bowl (head cover) was fluted and had a single adjustable nasal bar, similar to the rostrum (most frontal part) of the lobster.Lobsters were not only valuable food items, but had medicinal value during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Roasted, pulverized, and dissolved in wine, the lobster's rostrum served as a general remedy for a variety of urinary diseases, as well as for purging kidney stones. Lobster meat was valued as a diuretic, as was the broth made from boiling lobsters. Their gastrolith, a calcareous "rock" found in the stomachs of lobsters preparing to shed their shell, was used for eye inflammations and as a remedy for stomach aches and epilepsy.

While ancient, Middle Age, and Rennaisance people appreciated many aspects of the lobster, they did not retain their popularity with the more modern Europeans and Americans. Along the northeastern coast of the U.S., the lobster was once so common in the 17th and 18th centuries that it was considered a "junk" food. When caught in great quantities or stranded on shore after severe storms, lobsters served as garden fertilizer and as a food staple given to widows, orphans, servants, and prisoners. It was so commonly used as a food for servants and prisoners that Massachusetts passed a law forbidding its use more than twice a week - - a daily lobster dinner was considered cruel and unusual punishment! The American revolutionaries hurled the insult "lobsterback" at the red-coated British. It wasn't until the 19th century that lobsters regained their status as a luxury food item, mostly as a result of their popularity with royalty. Since that time, lobsters have become big business and, as a result, have been well studied. These studies have revealed that there's more to these creatures than meets the eye - - or even the palate!


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Material provided in this document is not to be cited or used without permission. Copyright by The Lobster Conservancy, 2004.