Ask Your Weird Animal Questions: Why Do Lobsters Turn Red When Cooked?

Does this calico lobster also turn red when cooked, or does it stay the same? —Liselle S., Philippines 

First things first: A rare calico lobster caught earlier this summer was donated to the Explore the Ocean World Oceanarium in New Hampshire and was reportedly set to be released in the ocean in September. It isn’t destined for the pot.

The five-year-old calico lobster caught in August. Photograph by Ellen Goethel, Explore the Ocean World

But whatever their color, lobsters turn red when cooked—that is, “except for a true albino,” said Sarah Paquette, executive assistant at the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance.

“It won’t turn red because it has no pigments in its shell, so it will just stay white.”

Lobsters have a red pigment that binds with other proteins to turn them a brownish color. The red pigment stays stable in heat, while the proteins break down—which is why the red remains when they’re cooked. (See “Odd-Colored Lobsters Decoded.”)

By the way, if it seems like you’re seeing more odd lobsters in the news, it’s not because there are more of them but likely because the lobster catch has increased, Paquette added.

The Bangor Daily News reported that Maine had a record lobster catch of 127.2 million pounds in 2012 and only slightly less in 2013.

Is it typical behavior for orcas to gang up on their prey?

I took the author’s prerogative to ask this after watching the video The King’s Fallby marine biologist and freelance photographer Edwar Herreño, which made the rounds on the web. The video shows six killer whales, or orcas, hunting, killing, and eating a tiger shark.

A photo of orcas hunting together.
Orcas hunting in pack ice in Neumayer Channel, Antarctica. Photograph by Ralph Lee Hopkins, National Geographic Creative

The short answer: yes. “It is not uncommon for orcas to hunt as a group,” Jackie Cooper of the National Aquarium in Baltimore said via email. “Different pods may have completely different group-hunting techniques, which are passed down over generations.

“Some people would argue that these different hunting techniques may even constitute ‘culture’ that is passed down through family groups,” Cooper added.

Are wood roaches different than cockroaches? Do wood roaches prefer living outdoors? —Josie, Wichita, Kansas

A wood roach, which is black or red-brown with a white margin behind its head, is a type of cockroach, according to Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology. But this cockroach species—one of 4,000 worldwide—is not a pest, and unlike your garden-variety roach, it can fly.

“Most of the roaches all around the world live in the woods and actually eat wood just like a termite,” said Roberto Pereira, an entomologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. So you could say most roaches are wood roaches—and that’s where they prefer to be. (Read why wood-eating cockroaches make good fathers.)

Roaches are mostly peri-domestic, meaning they live around the house instead of in it. The German cockroach is the only domestic species. So why do you see other types in your house?

“We have a terrible habit of leaving food available for these things, so once they move in they see no reason to move out,” Pereira said. Keeping your home sealed and not leaving food around should keep them outside where they belong.

What caused these froghoppers to die so suddenly? —Christine, United States

This question, which refers to a 2013 story about a pair of insects that died mating 165 million years ago, is hard to answer. That’s because it’s generally difficult to determine what killed fossilized insects, Mark Witton, a paleontologist at the U.K.’s University of Portsmouth, said via email.

“Sometimes we find evidence of diseases or injuries in fossil animals, but whether they represent the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, is often unclear.” (Also see “Mating Turtles Fossilized in the Act.”)

Science reported that the insects were “killed and covered by fine, poisonous, volcanic ash,” and that is also likely what preserved them so well, Witton said.

“They were clearly removed from processes of decay almost immediately after death, or even during their deaths,” he said. “Their rapid burial removed risks of scavenging and decay, and was an important step towards them becoming fossilized.”

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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