The Lobster | A Crustacean of Economic Importance

Lobsters are a family of marine crustaceans. Since they are a highly-prized source of seafood, lobsters are a crustacean of economic importance. They are often one of the most profitable commodities in the coastal areas they populate.

With their ten legs, lobsters are closely related to shrimp and crabs. They can be found in all of the world’s oceans as well as in rivers and freshwaters. Despite their poor eyesight, they possess highly developed senses of taste and smell.

Humans have consumed lobsters since the prehistoric period. They have a strong relationship with coastal and seafaring communities. Lobster was consumed as a regular and primary food source in many fishing communities all over the world: from Papua New Guinea, to Britain, to South Africa and Australia.

While the crayfish is a good substitute for a lobster, the two are not the same. The most similar relative of the clawed lobster are the three families of freshwater crayfish.

A typical lobster is dark-coloured and blends in with the ocean floor, much like a shrimp. Lobsters with atypical colouring are rare. They are not consumed and are instead released back into the wild or donated to aquariums. When it comes to cases of atypical colouring, it is usually due to a genetic factor such as: albinism or hermaphroditism.

In the wild, a lobster can live to be half a century old. Lobsters shed their entire exoskeleton when they grow and retain no hard structures. Lobsters continue to grow throughout their lives. A process that scientists call indeterminate growth.

When lobsters are young, they grow rapidly and moult multiple times a year. Over time, moulting slows and becomes less frequent. There is a biological reason for this. Each moult requires an increasing amount of energy. For this reason, the general trend is that female lobsters outlive male lobsters by a significant number of years.

Biological ageing is the deterioration of an animal’s body and bodily functions. To date, we don’t have a definitive answer of what causes ageing and the deterioration that sets in.

Unlike humans, lobsters do not weaken as they age. They continue to grow, feed, reproduce, regenerate limbs and so on. Scientists suggest that one of the reasons why lobsters do not ‘slow down’ the way humans do is because they possess an infinite supply of the enzyme telomerase.

Nevertheless, the moulting process does ‘cost’ the lobster and it cannot do it infinitely and indefinitely.

While hundreds of types of lobsters exist, only a few are caught for commercial purposes. Those few species, however, are some of the most heavily harvested creatures in the sea. They are responsible for a multibillion dollar industry that will most likely continue to exist for a long time to come.

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