Soft Shell Blue Lobster

“It’s dead! It’s a dead lobster!”

These are the shrieks I heard as I headed up to the touch tanks with 25 energized 5th graders earlier today. After my initial feeling of dread, I realized that what the students were observing was likely not a dead lobster, but something else. Something highly anticipated by myself and fellow Outreach Staff for months: a lobster molt.

After making my way through the chattering crowd of students, I confirmed my suspicions. I saw the huge, bright blue, freshly molted lobster sitting next to his discarded shell. The old, empty shell really does look like a dead lobster, complete with legs, claws, even antennae – so I can see how the students came to that conclusion.

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Freshly molted lobster, with old shell in the background

Not only was it amazing to see the brilliant blue color of the lobster’s new (still soft) shell, it was also a great teaching opportunity to illustrate to the students the way that Arthropods (like lobsters, crabs, insects, and spiders) shed their shell in order to grow.

After nearly 2 years without molting, we were starting to get worried that our two blue lobsters might not be able to molt, possibly due to advancing shell disease, stress, and their increasing size. The larger lobsters get, the more risky molting becomes, and some larger lobsters may not survive an attempt to molt. Today’s molt calmed our fears a bit – one down, one to go! Let’s hope our other blue follows suit and molts soon!

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Look at the size of those claws! 
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