He looks handsome, he looks smart, he is a walking work of art...

Rainbow Lobster 2016 01 01
Image: Chad Graham

While cruising the waters off Nova Scotia's Brier Island, fisherman Chad Graham found something interesting in his afternoon haul: a lobster of a different colour. The chances of pulling up such a rare morph are about one in 100 million, but contrary to some reports, this is not some byproduct of Fukushima radiation.

Like this all-white great white shark, this spotted right whale and this all-black frogfish, the technicolour lobster's strange appearance is the result of a pigment irregularity – in this case, one known as "crystal lobster".

While most crystal lobsters appear completely colourless, others, like this one, sport a more intermediate splotchy exoskeleton in multiple hues.


Even to an experienced fisherman like Graham, hauling up the specimen came as a shock. "I've been running the boat as Captain for seven years but have fished my whole life," he says. "I had never seen one like that before. It was very unique and amazing."

Because the lobster was under the legal catch size, Graham released it back into the abyss after snapping a quick photograph.

The rare condition is sometimes caused by a genetic mutation similar to leucism, which results in partial loss of pigment. But interestingly, a shift in diet throughout a lobster's life can also result in the morph.

Lobsters feed on a wide variety of small organisms, but two of their favourite foods shrimp and algae contain a great deal of astaxanthin (the pigment that makes carrots orange and flamingos pink). In fact, it's because of all that astaxanthin that lobsters turn bright red when exposed to heat during cooking. But a diet devoid of the pigment can cause warped colouration.

"I've seen a few different colours in the past, like blue, red, yellow, white and even orange but not that many colours in one lobster," Graham explains.

Some have expressed concerns about what seems to be an increase in sightings of such lobster oddballs, citing Fukushima radiation as the likely cause. But there is a far less sinister explanation: we're simply pulling up more lobsters. Lobster catch-rates have nearly quadrupled over the past 20 years, and with those numbers come better odds of spotting even the rarest of known colour morphs.

Blue Lobster Related 2015 02 01


Top header image: Jack Amick/Flickr