Despite their knight-like appearance, lobsters are actually sensitive and delicate animals. Although they can't see or hear very well they do have an exquisite sense of touch, thanks to hundreds of thousands of tiny hairs that stick out from gaps in their shells. Lobsters are also sensitive to changes in temperature — detecting temperature shifts as small as one degree — which is partly why they migrate up to 160 kilometres every year to find the perfect breeding ground for their fragile babies. This certainly puts death in a scalding pot into perspective.
Contrary to what we see in cartoons, lobsters use their claws for much more than just pinching! They often walk 'hand-in-hand', with older lobsters leading the younger. Lobsters can also be left-'handed', right-'handed' or ambidextrous. And they taste with their feet!
Indeed lobsters are not only able to feel pain, scientists have also discovered that crustaceans can learn to anticipate and avoid pain — a reasoning historically thought of as a uniquely human trait.
When other animals, including humans, experience extreme pain, their nervous system may shut down as a coping mechanism. Zoologists have found that lobsters and other crustaceans don't have this ability to go into 'shock' so when they are exposed to cruel procedures (such as having their claws or 'tail-meat' torn off or being boiled alive) — their suffering is prolonged. To give this perspective, scientists have found that it takes lobsters between 35 - 45 seconds to die when plunged into a pot of boiling water and if they are dismembered their nervous system can still function for up to an hour.
Every year, millions of lobsters meet their fate in a cooking pot. It's enough to make any lobster anxious ... and yes, new research has revealed crustaceans may experience anxiety — considered a complex emotion — in much the same way humans do. And they react to it just like many of us, too — by seeking out a safe space! French researchers have even discovered that stressed crayfish (a relation to lobsters) react positively when dosed with anti-depressant drugs — the very same ones used to treat anxiety in humans.
Well, not in the human sense of the word! The perfect example of 'ageing gracefully', lobsters don't suffer from any decline in strength or health and can just keep on keeping on. Scientists believe that lobsters may be biologically immortal — that they don't die of old age!
Lobsters, crayfish, crabs, prawns and other marine animals are the often forgotten and silent victims of the fishing and 'seafood' industries. But you can help these animals who are just as deserving of compassion. Here's how:
- Did you know that fish have feelings too? Discover more remarkable facts about fish.
- Find out how to save our oceans — and the creatures who call them home — in our top five tips to save 'the blue heart of the planet'.
- It's easy to save lobsters, crayfish and prawns from being boiling alive by taking a pledge to leave sea creatures in the water and off your plate!