Rare Maine Lobster Makes a Splash

When Capt. Daryl Dunham pulled one of his Penobscot Bay lobster traps Sept 10, he discovered the crustacean of a lifetime. Within the trap, he found a two-toned lobster, split from head to tail into solid orange and black halves. According to scientists’ estimates, the lobster is a one-in-fifty million find. 

Capt. Dunham donated the lobster to the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, an institution already home to three other rare lobsters. The two-toned lobster will join a solid blue lobster, a one-in-two million anomaly, as well as two calico lobsters, each of which is a one-in-thirty million find. Calico shell patterns are best described as a speckling of black and orange. In the past, the Center housed an albino lobster and a yellow lobster with black spots.

Patrick Shepard, a fishing scientist at the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, believes that the two-toned shell resulted from a genetic abnormality. Richard Wahle, director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, concludes that the lobster’s markings are as unique as its color; the lobster is biologically male, but its markings display both male and female characteristics.

The Center will release the lobster in two to three weeks.

Julia Nelson ’19 majored in environmental policy and studied Maine’s lobster industry for her senior capstone project. After conducting her research, she worries about the dissolution of Maine’s lobster industry. Increased ocean temperatures caused by global warming seriously threaten lobstering. 

She points to examples of such a situation elsewhere in the region, stating in an email to the Echo that warming waters “caused a complete collapse of the lobster industry in Southern New England.”

Temperatures are gradually rising in Maine; if this trend continues, Nelson believes “we will likely see some version of the collapse that occurred in the south.” The lobster industry’s absence would have major ramifications for Maine’s culture and economy.

Nelson thinks that the two-toned lobster’s recent discovery could provide more awareness for the lobster industry, as well as for lobster research organizations. This increased awareness could draw attention to the risks presented by climate change. In turn, the lobster’s discovery could help spur more research into harmful environmental conditions that might have caused the discoloration. 

Nelson concluded that this discovery is significant because it shines a spotlight on the dynamic nature of the lobster industry and provides people with a chance to “appreciate the beauty and importance of the lobsters in Maine.”

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