Pumpkin, the Halloween lobster

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 7:00am

When Tyler Hodgdon set out in his lobster boat, At Last, on Halloween, he never expected to haul a trap and find a pumpkin-colored lobster in it.

Orange lobsters are rare — one in 10 million, according to Elizabeth Langton, aquarist at the Department of Marine Resources in Boothbay Harbor. Blue lobsters are one in a million.

Hodgdon found the lobster in a trap that sat in around 60 feet of water, in the Sheepscot River near Powderhorn Island.

DMR’s Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor has some bi-colored lobsters — half orange and half typical, or normal colors. “We have a lot in the aquarium now because lobstermen give them to us and we keep them year after year,” Langton said.

Thanks to DMR Education Director Elaine Jones, “Pumpkin,” as the newly caught orange lobster has been dubbed, now has a permanent home at the aquarium.

“I picked up Pumpkin yesterday (Nov. 17) from Robinson's Wharf — so named by the DMR Aquarium staff because it was caught by Tyler Hodgdon on Halloween,” Jones said.

Diane Cowan of the Lobster Institute wrote an article titled “A lobster of a different color.” In it she explained that most lobsters are colored a mottled dark greenish brown. “In rare cases, a lobster of a different color (colormorph) appears. Exotic lobsters in shades of blue, white, yellow, black, and red have been reported from time to time since the earliest lobster harvests.”

Her article went on to state that lobsters get their characteristic color not only from genetics, but also from the foods they eat. “A natural-colored lobster fed a diet of squid will turn blue. A lobster deprived of all prey that eat phytoplankton (floating plantlike critters) appears pale blue.”

"A Rainbow of Colors," the aquarium's lobster tank, is one of the most sought after exhibits. Jones thanks all of the local and statewide lobstermen who donate their unusual catches each year.

“If we have an abundance of a particular color, we often loan them to schools across the state for their classroom aquariums. They become favorites among the inhabitants in their tanks,” said Jones.

Jones said she looks forward to placing Pumpkin on display in the spring.