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It's A Lobster's Life (Part 3)

Do or Diet

Lobsters are not what you’d call “picky eaters”, although they do prefer for their food to be fresh. “Fresh” may be stretching it a bit, since their bait consists of that attracts them into underwater lobster traps could be called into question (one sniff and you’ll know why...just sayin’!).

But, when not being tempted by tasty lobster bait, our friendly crustacean would rather feast on clams, mussels, crabs, worms, and sometimes sea urchin. On a good day, you might find him dining on a flounder that’s a bit of a dimwit because he got a little too close for comfort (remember don’t talk to strangers?).

Now a lobster can make a meal out of over 100 varieties of sea animals, and sometimes chows down on plants—you know, trying to keep it healthy! On the flip side, as we say: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”, one time a sizeable lobster was observed chomping on the tail of a skate in an aquarium—which might be a bit extreme. Even the fish were so bemused that they tried in vain to swim away.

Lobsters have also been seen bringing something back to snack on later. In the case of a crab, a lobster made a catch of one, dragged it back to its home and buried it like a dog’s bone. Then, instead of going out to hunt for the next few nights, it snacked on it.

Not for the squeamish, lobsters also have a “dark side” to their dietary choices. When in captivity, a lobster will drop its principles and feast on another lobster. And that “survival of the fittest” cannibalistic mentality really plays out when there’s a bunch of them held in a big aquarium tank (oh the horror!). To prevent this from happening, the lobsters have to have bands around their claws or are kept in separate chambers if they’re in a hatchery. Maybe this activity (which has been unnoticed in natural settings) stems from lobsters eating their molted shells. We can only wonder!

Working down the Food Chain

We’re not the only animal that likes to eat lobsters (in case you were wondering). Moving downward from us humans, cod come in a close second as being a lobster’s predator. Next in line are those bottom dwelling fish, like flounder (maybe they’re not as dimwitted as we thought), wolffish, crabs (also out for revenge), sculpins, rock gunnels, eels, and seals. Raccoons can also satisfy their craving for seafood by sneaking into lobster pounds on the coast after the tide goes out.

When lobsters look for a place to call “home”, they settle (no pun intended) for the ocean floor. You’ve heard of cliff dwellers? Lobsters are the opposite; bottom dwellers. And they’re early to inhabit that locale too, after only the first month of their young lives. But they make relatively good neighbors because they seem to have few problems coexisting with other bottom dwelling aficionados from the Gulf of Maine: sea urchins, algae, sculpin, crabs, and mussels.

Remember what we said about a lobster’s penchant for hiding in their homes? Well, this is why they seem to make good neighbors. They like the crevices found in rocks, the rocky, cobble bottoms of the ocean floor and the hidden spaces so they can be reclusive and remain out of sight throughout the day (they can keep watch over the neighborhood while everyone’s away).

One of the lobster’s neighbors, the sea urchin, was once so abundant in their numbers that they consumed much of the beds of sea kelp that covered the ocean floor leaving immeasurable expanses of the seafloor barren. Ultimately, the sea urchins were harvested for their roe (eggs) and the number of urchins declined greatly. As a result, kelp fields have thrived again, which in turn has helped pave the way for young lobsters to find safe places to hide and grow. Also possibly contributing to the proliferation of lobster is that cod and flounder have also been harvested greatly.

Bad neighbor behavior

So, forget what we said earlier about the lobster being a good neighbor. It’s not entirely true. In fact, our good ‘ol American, Yankee Doodle crustacean is a pugnacious, possessive, buttoned-up beast as it turns out. It could turn on its neighbors and eat them at any given moment. It’s a nocturnal animal that burrows by day and prowls by night along the ocean’s bottom. Sometimes it pays a visit to a neighbor’s dugout, whether it’s there or not. When it’s out at night crawling about, it may hunt down over 100 types of animals and a few plants.

Who’s the boss

The life of lobsters that cohabitate is a lesson in dysfunction, because when they’re together, regardless of the location — tank or ocean floor, there must be one lobster in control...one must be dominant and the other subservient. They’ll go at it with each other like it’s a prize fight until a winner emerges — and assumes the role of boss. Most of the time it’s the bigger and badder of the two crustaceans, but every once in a while a smaller powerhouse lobster will come out on top and win the fight. From then on, whenever the two encounter each other, the dominant lobster will flog the subservient one’s claws with their antenna (take that, and that!)

But the poor, subservient lobster is forced to cringe before the boss lobster until he’s moved on (how humiliating!). When captive, weaker male lobsters may endure a slower growth process and molt less than normal, which could be attributed to anxiety and less access to food. As with most animal hierarchies, the lobster in command has the privilege of getting his pick of suitable mates, the best food, and home. In addition, captive female lobsters also space out their molting periods more than normal to stand a better chance of mating with the male lobster in the dominant position (dating for lobsters is just as daunting a pursuit as it is for humans it seems!).