How Old Is That Lobster?
December 3, 2012

Scientists Discover How To Determine A Lobster’s Age

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While some scientists have estimated that lobsters can live to be more than 100 years old, a new study has revealed a method for determining exactly how old these crustaceans really are.

Writing in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences University of New Brunswick (UNB) research associate Raouf Kilada and colleagues reveal that lobsters, much like trees, have rings hidden on their bodies that can be counted to determine how long they have lived, Clarke Canfield of the Associated Press (AP) reported Friday.

"Scientists already could tell a fish's age by counting the growth rings found in a bony part of its inner ear, a shark's age from the rings in its vertebrae and a scallop or clam's age from the rings of its shell," Canfield explained.

"But crustaceans posed a problem because of the apparent absence of any permanent growth structures," he added. "It was thought that when lobsters and other crustaceans molt, they shed all calcified body parts that might record annual growth bands."

During their research, Kilada and his associates discovered that the growth rings of lobsters, snow crabs, and certain types of shrimp can be found in the creatures' eyestalks, which connect their eyeballs to their bodies, Science World Report and other media outlets reported over the weekend.

The rings could also be located in an area of their stomachs known as the "gastric mill," where tooth-like structures help pulverize digesting food. The growth bands were discovered when the scientists dissected the two areas in question and studied portions of them under a microscope, Canfield said.

"Having the age information for any commercial species will definitely improve the stock assessment and ensure sustainability", Kilada said during a speech at a gathering of more than 100 scientists from the US, Canada and Europe in Portland last week, according to

"We've thought lobsters could live to 100 years old, and this new aging technique will be a way to document that," Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine's Lobster Institute, added, according to the AP.