Pictured: Rare Blue Lobster Found in Restaurant Shipment

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
June 13, 2019US News
Pictured: Rare Blue Lobster Found in Restaurant Shipment
Live lobsters are packed and weighed for overseas shipment at the Maine Lobster Outlet in York, Maine, on Dec. 10, 2015. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo)

A rare blue lobster was discovered in a restaurant shipment this week, leaving employees stunned.

Nathan Nickerson, owner of Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham, Massachusetts, told NBC CT that he got the lobster in a shipment from Ipswich Shellfish Group that arrived on June 10.

The blue lobster is a 7-year-old male. Its rarity may save its life: Nickerson wants to donate it to an aquarium.

“It was pretty shocking,” Nickerson told the Cape Cod Times. “They’re so blue and so rare. It’s amazing that a genetic mutation can cause it. If you let it go in the ocean, I don’t know if it’ll survive or get caught again. They need to be protected.”

“I can’t imagine anyone cooking a lobster like that that is so rare. That would be immoral,” he added.

One out of every 2 million lobsters is blue, Anita Kim, assistant scientist and laboratory operations manager at New England Aquarium, told the Times. The blue color stems from a genetic mutation; other mutations can turn lobsters yellow, orange, white, or calico. Some lobsters even have two different colors, one on each side.

Out of all the possible colors other than brown, blue is the most common. Only one out of every 30 million lobsters is orange while white lobsters are only about one out of every 100 million lobsters.

The University of Maine (pdf) said that “the coloration comes from a genetic defect that causes the lobster to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein that gives the lobster that unique coloration.”

“Human beings come in different colors for much the same reason that lobsters do—the predominance of certain pigments,” the Maine Lobsterman Alliance stated. “A pigment called melanin determines human skin color while lobster shells contain the pigment astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is naturally red, but when it binds with certain proteins it can appear blue or yellow. White lobsters are albinos and lack any pigments in their shells.

Even normal lobsters have a color complexity that most people don’t notice, Kim told the Boston Globe previously.

“A normal colored lobster has three layers of color from the top down: yellow, blue, and red,” she said. “Our eyes can’t handle the layers and so we see brown. This is also why lobsters turn red when you cook them. The heat from the boiling water causes the proteins in the lobster to denature, or fall apart.”

She noted that the mutations aren’t fully understood.

“A blue lobster is blue because it is showing that middle pigment-protein layer,” Kim said. “Why it’s only showing that layer is not known. It can either be transporting most or all of the pigment into that blue layer of the shell or it possibly has made an overabundance of protein in that layer and so that is the dominant color that we see.”

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.