How Did Odd Lobster Get Six Claws?

We dare you to high five this lobster.

Amazingly, you could. Lola, a 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) lobster with five claws on her left side, was caught off Hyannis, Massachusetts, last week by the F/V Rachel Leah (from the TV show Lobster Wars) and donated to Maine State Aquarium in Boothbay Harbor.

lobster picture
Lola was caught last week off Massachusetts. Photograph courtesy Maine State Aquarium

Claw abnormalities occur when a set of regulatory genes that dictate growth give the wrong signal. They also sometimes occur when a lobster regenerates a claw after losing one, experts say.

The multiclawed crustacean got to meet the public briefly before being pulled off display due to health concerns, aquarium manager Aimee Hayden-Roderiques told National Geographic.

Aquarium staff believe that Lola was in the molting process at the time she was caught and was acclimating to the aquarium system, she said.

“It’s standard protocol for us to pull any potentially molting lobster off exhibit for their protection.”

After they shed their exoskeleton, lobsters “become this soft, water balloon-version of a lobster,” and then hide until they regrow their shell, she said. A lot of them eat their old shell to get the calcium necessary to regrow a new one. “We definitely have to keep them separated until they harden enough to be exhibit-worthy again.”

lobster picture
Lola’s claws are likely due to a genetic glitch. Photograph courtesy Maine State Aquarium

Hayden-Roderiques added there’s no guarantee that Lola will regrow her unique claw after the molting process. (Also see photo: “Lobster Caught ‘Half-Cooked’ in Maine.”)

An Oddity Among Oddities

Though a six-clawed lobster is an oddity, Lola will be among her own kind there.

That’s because Maine State Aquarium seems to be the place for unique lobsters. The aquarium houses lobsters with a variety of color variations like orange, blue, and calico, as well as a 20-pounder (we assume that one gets lots of dinner invites) and several other lobsters with unique claw mutations. (Read about a bright-blue lobster caught in 2012.)

But Lola is a catch.  Even the aquarium’s seasoned marine scientist, David Libby from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, was so impressed by the six claws that he told the Bangor Daily News that his 40 years of experience with ocean creatures was “apparently not enough.”

What’s more, Lola has to be the friendliest lobster in world… Well, at least she always looks like she’s waving.

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Liz Langley is the award-winning author of Crazy Little Thing: Why Love and Sex Drive Us Mad and has written for many publications including Salon, Details and the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter @LizLangley and at www.lizlangley.com

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