What is a lobster?

Lobster was considered a poor man’s food until the mid-19th century.

Lobster is a crustacean in the Nephropidae family. As several other taxonomic families are referred to as “lobsters”, some people distinguish the Nephropidae as the clawed lobster family, emphasizing the distinctive and familiar physical characteristics associated with the creatures in this family. Lobsters can be found in every ocean in the world and are a valuable commercial crop in many areas of the world.

Although lobster is considered a delicacy today, it wasn’t always that way. Throughout the 19th century, lobster was poor man’s food, and often used as bait for more attractive species of seafood. While it might seem ridiculous to lobster fans today, people in regions like Maine would complain about being forced to eat lobster for weeks on end, with no culinary variation.

The lobster is an invertebrate, with a rigid exoskeleton that can range in color from brown to greenish. The animals have long antennae and eyes on protruding stems, along with five pairs of legs. Front legs evolved into claws that are used to grasp and manipulate food. Some lobsters may develop unequally sized claws for specific tasks, and in the event that the larger claw is lost, the smaller claw may grow to accommodate the situation.

In the first five years of its life, a young lobster sheds its shell numerous times, in a process called molting. As the growth rate slows down, so does the molt, until the lobster molts once a year. If left unmolested, a lobster can live over 100 years and can grow quite large, feeding on many small marine animals. Lobsters prefer the ocean floor, which means most live on the continental shelf, because conditions on the abyssal plain are too harsh for lobsters.

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Lobster breeding is quite interesting. Many species of lobster reproduce while the female is molting, with the male depositing a packet of sperm that the female can store for up to a year, until she feels ready to use it. When the female is ready to lay eggs, she forces the eggs through the sperm to fertilize them and then attaches them to the tail, carrying them around until they are almost ready to hatch. At the time of hatching, eggs are released and left to drift, with baby lobsters living as drifting organisms until they are more fully developed.

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