What Makes a Lobster Worth $500?

Written by on October 18, 2013 in Invertebrates, Marine Life
Three unique lobsters on display at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.

Three unique lobsters on display at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Photo credit: Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk via photopin cc.

I recently received an email asking me about a rather interesting listing on Ebay. Someone is selling a lobster for $500. What on Earth makes a lobster worth $500, you ask? It’s blue.

So what made this lobster blue? To figure that out, let’s first look at how normal lobsters turn from a natural muddy brown when alive to a bright red when cooked.

Lobsters eat a red pigment called astaxanthin and when it gets absorbed into the skin, it makes the lobster look red. If it didn’t eat plant material containing astaxanthin, it wouldn’t be red to start.

From the skin, some of the pigment makes its way into the shell where it gets twisted by proteins, turning it blue. Then the pigments get twisted one more time, turning yellow.

So when you’re looking at a lobster, you’re looking through one layer of yellow pigment, one layer of blue pigment, and one layer of red pigment, which looks like a solid layer of muddy reddish-brown.

So what happened to make this particular lobster blue? In a lab you can make a lobster blue by not feeding it astaxanthin, in the wild it different colors are cause by genetic mutations. Lobsters can be blue, red (while still alive), yellow, and even split-colored. The chances of seeing some of these colors are very slim.

But it doesn’t matter what color it is when it’s alive — it will still turn bright red when cooked.

Here are the odds of catching a different colored lobster:

  • Blue: 1 in 2 million
  • Red (live): 1 in 10 million
  • Yellow: 1 in 30 million
  • Orange and Black Calico: 1 in 30 million
  • Split-colored: 1 in 50 million
  • White/Crystal/Albino: 1 in 100 million

This video from Bytesize Science, which we’ve shared before, does a perfect job of explaining why a lobster turns red. Check it out:

To learn more, check out some of these posts:

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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