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Most lobsters, as you’ve probably noticed, are a dark-ish hue of orange-brown. Red after they’re boiled, but dark-ish hue of orange-brown before they’re thrown into a pot to be boiled alive. But every so often, something happens that changes that pre-boil color. It’s extraordinarily rare, but an estimated one in a 100 million lobsters are a vibrant shade of blue. And against nearly all odds, a lobster fisherman out of Maine recently pulled one up.
“We were measuring and picking out lobsters on our strings of traps, and all of a sudden, this glow came up in one of the traps,” said lobsterman Bill Coppersmith to NPR. “I go, wow, look at that. And I grabbed that lobster. Sure enough, one of my helpers said, ‘gee, that’s the color of cotton candy.’”
The lobster, a female that Coppersmith decided to call Haddie after his granddaughter (who, I assume, is of normal color), is blue because of a rare genetic mutation. The aptly-named LobsterAnywhere.com explained it like this:
“Blue lobsters are, in fact, the result of a single mutation of one piece of the DNA of American lobsters. This mutation causes an overproduction of a particular protein. This results in the bright blue pigment, rather than the typical mix of pigments that give the typical greenish-brown.”
Most lobsters have three or four different pigments that layer together to create the color of their shell. The pigment molecule, called astaxanthin, binds to other proteins, and the shell reflects different wavelengths of light — which, of course, is how we’re able to see different colors. When you cook a lobster and they turn red, it’s because the proteins in the shell denature. While red, blue, and yellow are the most common colors, due to Haddie’s mutation, she appears to be missing every pigment except blue. Back in 2017, another lobsterman from Maine found a lobster that was missing most of its coloring. It probably had a condition known as Leucism, which is a partial loss of pigmentation. It’s not exactly albinism, however, and it can happen to any creature with pigment.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one in person,” Mark Murrell of the seafood company Get Maine Lobster, for which Coopersmith is a contract fisherman, told the Washington Post. “You put it under a different light, and it’s amazing. She really starts to sparkle and different colors emerge: blue, pink, aqua. It’s like the inside of an oyster shell.”
There is a chance, however, that Haddie’s off-color shell is due to a different kind of food. Interestingly, a few animals use pigments from their diet to create their colors. Flamingos, for example, are pink because they eat a certain type of algae and brine shrimp that has carotenoids with red, orange, and yellow pigments. Lobsters do the same thing, and Haddie could possibly be missing out on different food sources that carry the darker pigments. Coppersmith will likely find out the reason soon, because he’s keeping her. Well, the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire is, anyway. There, she’ll feed on regular lobster food. If her color changes to the normal shade, she’s simply missing something in her diet. If not… well, she’s a freak of nature.