Researchers at the University of New England welcomed its latest addition – an orange lobster – to its collection of rare, multicolored crustaceans Monday, university officials announced. The unusually colored lobster is a one-in-30 million find, the university said.
The bright orange lobster was caught in Casco Bay, Maine on Friday by Capt. Gregg Turner and his crew, Sage Blake and Mandy Cyr.
Cyr announced the find on Instagram Saturday.
“My [c]aptain says he’s only seen 2 in his lifetime and the first time no-one [believed] him,” the post read.
Lobsters are typically a dull color when alive and only get their signature red hue after being cooked. Genetics influence lobster shell coloration, which is where multi-colored crustaceans get their unusual colors. The interplay of several different protection can also cause the lobster’s coloration, Markus Frederich, a Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of New England told CBS News. The lack of a certain gene, and then the respective protein, can lead to different colors, he said.
“These mutations that silence the respective genes are rare,” Frederich said.
Charles Tilburg, the director of the Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center, told CBS News that researchers are also interested in whether environment or diet contributes to coloration.
“Will she consistently stay the same color between molts because of her particular genetic make-up or will she slowly change with each molt due to the new environmental conditions?” he asked.
The still-unnamed lobster also offers a unique opportunity for academics and students to study how a lobster grows its new claw in real-time.
” Also unique about this orange lobster, other than her incredibly rare coloration, is that she is missing a claw,” Alan Bennett, a public relations strategist at the university, added. “So faculty and students have a rare opportunity to study how her claw will regrow in real-time.”
Lobsters grow through molting — a process in which they struggle out of their old shells while simultaneously absorbing water which expands their body size, according to the University of Maine .
The lobster in question will start regrowing her missing claw before her next molt. However, it will take several molts to regrow a claw that’s proportional to the rest of her body.
“The claw regeneration happens surprisingly fast,” Frederich, the marine science professor, said. “As we have seen with Banana, our yellow lobster that arrived without any front claws, within 2 to 3 molts the claws regrow into their original size.”
The lobster was transported from Turner’s Lobsters in Scarborough, Maine to her new home at the Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center, Bennett told CBS News. The lobster will be under observation and cared for by the students and staff there.
It’s the second rare lobster found by Turner’s crew and donated to the university, officials said in a press release . The first, a Calico lobster named Sprinkles, was captured and then donated to UNE’s Marine Science Center this past winter, but later died.
“We suspect that the lobster was stressed during the transfer,” Tilburg said. “We have a much more sophisticated system for the transfer now.”
The university said it retained its exoskeleton, using it for educational purposes including for camps and school groups.
Not only has the university studied and cared for multicolored lobsters before, but researchers have also had a chance to study a blue lobster — a one-in-two million find — and split-colored lobsters, which are a one-in-50-million catch.
The university is home to a blue lobster named Blueberry, another calico lobster named Mango, a large lobster named Larry, a split lobster named Banana Split, and a famous yellow lobster, named Banana, according to Tilburg.
Last year, employees at a Red Lobster restaurant in Hollywood, Florida made headlines after they rescued a bright orange lobster, The lobster, named Cheddar , was given a new home at Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach.
Ripley’s explained then that “Cheddar’s vibrant shell is caused by a genetic mutation that causes it to produce more of a particular protein than other lobsters.”
Another orange lobster was discovered at a Westboro, Massachusetts supermarket in 2018. That lobster was spotted in a shipment from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.
Michael Roppolo is a CBS News reporter. He covers a wide variety of topics, including science and technology, crime and justice, and disability rights.