Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Do Lobsters Grow?

As we learned in last week’s Lobster Facts, lobsters grow larger by shedding their shell. This process of molting depends on water temperature as well as lobster age and size.

Lobsters molt by secreting enzymes that soften their current shell. Once they are hidden from harm, a molting lobster will split the back of its shell and fold its body into a V in order to back out of its current home. Shedding lobsters are very vulnerable at this stage because their shell is very soft as it grows into its new body. An average molt will increase a lobster’s size by 20%.

As lobsters grow, their molting becomes less frequent. The smaller the lobster the more it sheds. Even lobster larvae (eggs recently detached from the mother-see link) molt within their egg. It is said that larvae will molt about six times within the egg and then many more times at the ocean surface before sinking to the sea floor. In the first 3 years, a lobster will molt at least every other month slowing to twice a year by years 5-7. After year 7 (when the lobster is considered to have reached maturity), the lobster will only molt once a year. Eventually as the lobster grows, molting will only take place once every few years depending on how long it takes to grow into the new shells.

Lobsters molt in cycles typically based on water temperature. Warmer waters aid in lobster growth, and many times molting becomes seasonal as the water temperature rises and falls. Adolescent lobsters will many times molt in the summer as temperatures rise, and again in the fall as the temperatures drop.

Want to brush up on your lobster lingo? Check out our post on lobster terms used by real lobstermen!

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