Ask the Lobster Doc: Part 4 – Lobsters in summer

A year in the life of a lobster: Part 4 – Lobsters in summer


Summer is the easiest time to study lobster behavior.

ask-the-lobster-doc-CowanSo I suppose that’s why summer is the only season in which I’ve been an eyewitness to similar lobster antics in myriad settings – including the laboratory, and in the intertidal, shallow, and deep subtidal zones.

In Part 1 of this four-part series, I outlined the 23 years of research I planned to draw on – including studies I’ve done on lobsters in nature over many years – to take you on a journey through “A Year in the Life of a Lobster.”

However, to finish the series with the most interesting things I’ve learned about lobsters in summer, I needed to go back even further in time – 33 years ago – to include those laboratory studies.

And, for this final installment in the series, I also wanted to include diving, both shallow and deep, to chronicle lobster behavior firsthand.


In the pound 

On a summer’s day in Maine, it is sheer pleasure to dive into the shallow waters of the Friendship lobster pound and circle around to check out what the lobsters are up to in their underwater world.

I usually begin my lobster census off Pickup Point – originally named for the ancient abandoned GMC pickup truck tucked away in the spruce trees – but also aptly named for what adult lobsters do amidst the rocks tumbling down from the bedrock outcrop.

Inside shelter “Y1” male lobster “M32” uses mouthparts and front legs as a bulldozer to push sand and gravel out of his entrance somewhat like sweeping filth from a dirt floor using a live broom.

Such chores are all part of the daily routine for a mature male hoping to attract a receptive female lobster
to his spiffy den.

Nosing up to shelter “Y5,” I realize that Pickup Point embodies its dual meaning as I watch the resident male saunter up to the female poking her claws inside his shelter entrance and flicking antennules (short pair of antennae) to catch a whiff.

“M1” flicks back and moves forward to tap the tips of her claws, then higher and higher up toward her knuckles.  I think he can reckon how hollow she might be inside…


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