To celebrate the spooky season, the New England Aquarium revealed its latest acquisition: a half-orange, half-black “Halloween” lobster. Caught last week off the shores of Massachusetts, the one-pound, female lobster made her debut at the aquarium on Halloween 2012.
A Lobster Named Pinchy
Dana Duhaime, a lobsterman who hails from the appropriately “witchy” town of Salem, discovered the two-toned lobster in one of his traps in the waters of Bakers Channel near Beverly, Massachustetts. Duhaime named her “Pinchy,” in honor of Homer Simpson’s pet lobster from The Simpsons. Unlike the Simpsons’ lobster (which Homer ate at the end of the episode), Pinchy will live out her days at the New England Aquarium where biologist Bill Murphy brought her. After a brief quarantine, Pinchy may go on public display.
Lobsters of Different Colors
2012 was a banner year for catching oddly colored lobsters with hues from yellows to blues to calicoes. In May 2012, Toby, a solid blue lobster was caught off the Maryland coast. (See related story: Weird & Wild: Odd-Colored Lobsters Decoded) Solid blue lobsters occur in about 1 in every 2 million. Solid red lobsters are more rare, averaging about 1 in 10 million. Solid yellow lobsters are even rarer—1 in 30 million.
Half Baked Appearance
But the elusive split lobsters like Pinchy are even more uncommon. The New England Aquarium estimates that they occur once in every 50 to 100 million lobsters. In the last ten years, splits have turned up in the waters off Maine, Rhode Island, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. (See related story: Lobster Caught “Half Cooked” in Maine. )
The Halloween hues of orange and black are the most common splits found in lobsters. One side of the lobster bears the normal coloration—a dark murky blend of blue, red, and yellow pigments bound together by proteins–and the other side’s color is caused by a genetic mutation. Rare orange lobsters and the half-orange lobsters are missing the blue pigment which results in their distinctive pumpkin color. Blue lobsters like Toby are missing the red and yellow pigments in their shells.
The genetic origins of the lobsters’ split appearance are believed to be a complete cellular division when the lobster egg is first fertilized. Most split lobsters are hermaphrodites and show the sexual characteristics of both genders. Pinchy is a female, which makes her an even rarer kind of lobster.