Clawed lobsters comprise a family (Nephropidae, sometimes also Homaridae) of large marine crustaceans. They are important as an animal, a business and a food. more...
Clawed lobsters should not be confused with spiny lobsters, which have no claws (chelae), and are not closely related. more...
The closest relatives of clawed lobsters are the reef lobster Enoplometopus and the three families of freshwater crayfish.
Smaller varieties are sometimes called "lobsterettes". Lobsters are invertebrates, and have a tough exoskeleton, which protects them. Like all arthropods, lobsters must molt in order to grow, leaving them vulnerable during this time. Lobsters are considered a food delicacy around the world. In Europe, they are extremely expensive; in some parts of North America, much less so.
Lobsters live on rocky, sandy, or muddy bottoms from the shoreline to beyond the edge of the continental shelf. They generally live singly in crevices or in burrows under rocks.
Although many studies suggested that lobsters are primarily scavengers, feeding on molluscs and decaying animal matter, recent studies have shown that they primarily feed on live fish, dig for clams, sea urchins, and feed on algae and eel-grass. They occasionally eat other lobsters, too. An average adult lobster is about 230 mm (9 inches) long and weighs 700 to 900 g (1.5 to 2 pounds). Lobsters grow throughout their lives, though, and are long-lived. They can thus reach impressive sizes. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest lobster was caught in Nova Scotia, Canada and weighed 20.14 kg (44.4 lb).
The environmental conditions of the lobsters can vary from ocean to ocean, but the lobster's temperature environment does not fluctuate much since their home is a large mass of water, the ocean.
Like all arthropods, lobsters are largely bilaterally symmetrical; clawed lobsters often possess unequal, specialized claws, like the king crab. The anatomy of the lobster includes the cephalothorax which is the head fused with the thorax, both of which are covered by the carapace, and the abdomen. The lobster's head consists of antennae, antennules, mandibles, the first and second maxillae, and the first, second, and third maxillipeds. Because a lobster lives in a murky environment at the bottom of the ocean, its vision is poor and it mostly uses its antennae as sensors. The abdomen of the lobster includes swimmerets and its tail is composed of uropods and the telson.
The lobster industry
Most lobster comes from the north-eastern coast of North America with the Canadian Maritimes and the U.S. state of Maine being the largest producers. They are caught using lobster traps. These devices made of shrimp mesh and wire (wooden traps, now obsolete, were traditionally used) are baited and lowered to the sea floor. They allow a lobster to enter, but make it impossible for the larger specimens to turn around and exit. This allows the creatures to be captured alive. The traps have a buoy, sometimes referred to as a "pot", floating on the surface and lobster fishermen check their traps daily. Studies have shown that the inefficient trap system—which permits small, juvenile lobsters to easily escape—has inadvertently prevented the lobster population from being overfished.
Prior to the 20th century, lobster wasn't popular as food. In the Maritimes, eating lobster was considered a mark of poverty. In some parts of the Maritime provinces of Canada, lobster was used as a fertilizer for farmers' fields. Outside of the rural outports lobster was sold canned, losing much of its flavour which can be disregarded if the lobster is dipped in butter.
The reputation of lobster changed with the development of the modern transportation industry that allowed live lobsters to be shipped from the outports to large urban centres. Fresh lobster quickly became a luxury food and a tourist attraction for the Maritimes and Maine and an export to Europe and Japan where it is especially expensive.
Lobster is most commonly cooked by placing a live whole lobster in a pot of boiling water. Some consider this method cruel, and more humane ways of killing them include inserting a knife into the back of their head and slicing downward, or freezing them for 15 minutes before boiling . The apparent cruelty of boiling lobsters alive was challenged in a Norwegian study released in February of 2005, which determined that lobsters cannot feel pain due to their diminished central nervous system capacity. When cooking a lobster experienced cooks drop the lobster in upside down, head first. The tail may flap for several seconds, so placing the lobster in the pot upside down prevents the cook from being splashed with boiling water.
Lobster is best eaten fresh, and they are normally purchased live. Lobsters are usually shipped and sold with their claws banded to prevent them from injuring each other or the purchaser. Restaurants that serve lobster keep a tank of the live creatures, often allowing patrons to pick their own.
The shell of the lobster makes eating them a slow process for the unskilled or timid, who may require a number of implements, including nutcrackers, a small fork, and a plastic bib. It is possible to shell a lobster by hand if one is careful to avoid the sharp points. The tail can be snapped open by first squeezing its sides inward, and then grabbing the edges of the shell, placing the thumbs on the dorsal side and pulling the sides apart. The claws usually open by hyper-extending the lobster's "thumb" and then pulling it out. Sometimes the claws can then by cracked by simply squeezing them. Otherwise, an ordinary fork is usually sufficient to snap open the side of the claw. This style of lobster-eating is best done outdoors or dockside where flying bits of lobster will not annoy anyone. In a fine restaurant it is possible to cover the shell parts with a napkin before snapping them apart. This also helps prevent injury to the hands from sharp points of the shell. Often a knowledgeable waiter will provide this service.
The majority of the meat is in the tail and the two front claws, but smaller quantities can be found in the legs and torso. Lobsters are often eaten plain, or with butter, lemon juice or white vinegar. Lobster can also be cut up and used in a wide array of dishes. One popular way of serving lobster was to combine it with steak in what became known by the 1960s as surf and turf. It can also be served boiled as lobster soup.
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