Wildlife

Watch: Very Rare Calico Lobster Caught in New Hampshire

You could call it a lucky catch: A fisher recently captured an extremely rare “calico” lobster in New Hampshire.

The five-year-old “calico” lobster recently caught off Maine. Photograph by Ellen Goethel, Explore the Ocean World

Josiah Beringer found the 1.5-pound (0.6 kilogram) animal in one of his traps this week and donated it to the Explore the Ocean World Oceanarium in Hampton, New Hampshire. (See “Odd-Colored Lobsters Decoded.”)

The colorful crustacean is already a main attraction thanks to its remarkable appearance, which includes bright-orange and dark-blue patterns—even on its antennae.

Naturally brownish green, lobsters can come in a variety of colors, including blue, two-toned—with colors split strikingly down the middle—and albino, which may be as rare as 1 in 100 million. (See pictures of albino animals.)

According to Ellen Goethel, a marine biologist and oceanarium director, the chance of finding a calico lobster is between 1 in 30 million and 1 in 50 million, according to some estimates.

However, Robert C. Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, believes calicos may be more common than generally believed.

“I’ve seen quite a few of them,” said Bayer. “I’ve seen more calicos than any other color variant.”

How the Lobster Got Its Spots

Exactly how a calico lobster gets its spotted shell is poorly understood, Bayer said, likely because the oddities are rarely studied and considered “a curiosity more than anything else.” (Also see “How Did Odd Lobster Get Six Claws?“)

Other color variations, such as blue lobsters, have been well researched and are known to be caused by genetic changes, specifically the overproduction of a certain protein, he said in a previous interview.

But Bayer has dissected calico lobsters and thinks something may be going on beyond genetics. “I don’t think it’s genetic. I think we’re looking at something environmental,” he said.

For instance, he recently dissected a calico lobster that had odd white paste under its shell, which appeared to be bacterial when he examined it under a microscope. (See “Lobsters to Be Supersized by Climate Change?“)

“That white material, whatever it is, corresponds to the calico area on the shell,” said Bayer.

Back to the Ocean

Whatever mechanism is behind their multiple colors, calico lobsters are not to be confused with lobsters suffering from shell disease, an increasingly common ailment in which a lobster’s shell develops lesions and a mottled appearance, said Goethel.

Calicos are not thought to be more vulnerable to early death, though little research has been done on the subject, the experts added.

As for the recent calico catch, it will live at the oceanarium until Labor Day, when Goethel and colleagues will return the rare beauty to its ocean home.

Follow Stefan Sirucek on Twitter.

Stefan Sirucek is a writer and journalist who reports from both sides of the Atlantic. He's written for the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @sirstefan.
  • Ima Ryma

    To New Hampshire, when I was caught
    In the Atlantic in July,
    A calico lobster bright blot,
    Red, orange, black, brown, green, blue – but why?
    An oddity that humans are
    So far just curious about.
    I think that humans are bizarre
    On differing colors – no doubt!
    My genes or my environment?
    I guess I be just what I be,
    Now an attraction evident,
    For curious humans to see.

    Be let loose after Labor Day?
    Can I believe what humans say?

  • Mark River Peoples

    Beautiful animal.Mark River

  • Youssef

    No one should ever feel prouf of capturing an animal, and especially a rare one. They don’t belong in captivity but in the nature.

  • Youssef

    Never mind my comment I jumped into assumptions without reading till the end, it will go back to the ocean 😀

  • Andy Ho

    It is pretty nice of her to release back into the ocean and I am happy to see that. If this happens in Asia, the lobster is dinner, extremely rare or not, and it’s real sickening.

  • RADHAKRISHNAN

    IT SHOULD GO BACK TO THE SEA WHERE IT WAS CAUGHT. IT SHOULD NOT BE MADE TO SUFFER OUT OF WATER AS FOR A SHOW PIECE FOR HUMANS. IT SHOULD BE RETURNED TO THE SEA IMMEDIATELY. THANKS.

  • Paul Krol

    So they are rare, or not? 1/30 million or 1/50 million, and yet someone else has “seen quite a few of them”….

  • Robin

    Very cruel how they catch em in the second video at the end of the page … it’s like catching a human and drag it with his hair around ….

  • jordan

    You guys complain about everything..

  • Devan

    I wonder how calico lobsters look boiled and smothered in butter…

  • Shirley Morneau

    The first thing I thought of when I saw this was are you going to put it back where it came from? Why do people have to catch everything and feel it’s their right to have it? It belongs back in the ocean right where you found it!!

  • Jeff A Emler

    I caught a calico lobstah once. When I boiled it alive it turned red just like a normal lobstah.

  • SPOON

    Calm your bleeding hearts. Plants, animals, fishes, etc. are here on earth to serve a purpose. I bet its flesh tastes just as succulent as any other “Maine Lobster”. So what if it’s “odd colored. It’s a legal keeper and I’d consume with with a little lemon and butter! The fisherman’s choice to use what he catches in his earnest efforts to feed his family and many others with his catch. He thought it neat to look at and shared this bounty in his own right. GET OVER IT or don’t swat another bug, be it a fly, a mosquito or an arachnid, let alone a snake or worse…a rabid animal allowed to roam your neighborhood. This human, you CAN & BETTER believe, Ima Ryma would have eaten that crustacean!

  • Rodrigo

    I feel so bad about the climate changes that are ocurring beacouse of our fault,this is not a rare animal this is a new diase in the calico lobsters 🙁

  • joey gagne

    I come from four generation of lobster fishing family its very common to see lobster all different color’s that is the most common color oddity.if not dark brownish red then you get really cool pastel colors orange green purple aqua blue

  • JODY JOHNSEN

    An environmental change that shortens a lobsters life sounds a lot like Tulip Mania of the 17th century. Is it a coincidence that the light colored streaking is occurring in both? It concerns me that our irresponsible behavior toward our planet may have put another species in danger.

  • Tyler Guptill

    Theses are quite common we had two the other day we see them all the time they might be rare to a flatlander but lobster fisherman see them all the time

  • Guy

    It is sad the knee jerk comments about how “supposed” climate change is the cause. Please note that Maine is catching record amounts of lobster. Through good management and COLD waters it is at it best. The climate change comments and the lobster supposed decline are both factually UNTRUE. Note the northeast USA has had record cold and the water is cooler than historical average. Please support truth in science and real study, not Al Gore make me money science!

  • Liselle S

    Thumbs up for donating it!
    Does this also turn red when cooked or does it stay the same? Just curious if it ends up looking like any other lobster when cooked.

  • Micah Beringer

    My brother, Josiah Beringer caught this in New Hampshire, not Maine. Your title is absolutely wrong.
    “You could call it a lucky catch: A fisher recently captured an extremely rare “calico” lobster in Maine.”

    • Christine Dell’Amore

      Thanks for the comment Micah! I fixed.

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