GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Latest Cape Ann News

November 30, 2012

Study: Growth rings show a lobster’s age, like a tree

It’s now known that lobsters and other crustaceans, such as crabs and shrimp, grow one ring per year in hidden-away internal spots.

PORTLAND, Maine — For the first time, scientists have figured out how to determine the age of a lobster — by counting its rings, like a tree.

Nobody knows how old lobsters can live to be; some people estimate they live to more than 100.

But knowing — rather than simply guessing — their age and that of other shellfish could help scientists better understand the population and assist regulators of the lucrative industry, said Raouf Kilada, a research associate at the University of New Brunswick who was the lead author of a scientific paper documenting the process.

Before now, scientists deduced a lobster’s age judging by size and other variables. But it’s now known that lobsters and other crustaceans, such as crabs and shrimp, grow one ring per year in hidden-away internal spots, Kilada said.

“Having the age information for any commercial species will definitely improve the stock assessment and ensure sustainability,” he said after presenting his findings Thursday at a scientific conference in Portland.

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.

But crustaceans posed a problem because of the apparent absence of any permanent growth structures. It was thought that when lobsters and other crustaceans molt, they shed all calcified body parts that might record annual growth bands. For their research, Kilada and five other Canadian researchers took a closer look at lobsters, snow crabs, northern shrimp and sculptured shrimp. They found that growth rings, in fact, could be found in the eyestalk — a stalk connected to the body with an eyeball on the end — of lobsters, crabs and shrimp. In lobsters and crabs, the rings were also found in the so-called “gastric mills,” parts of the stomach with three teeth-like structures used to grind up food.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest Cape Ann News

Pictures of the Week
Your news, your way
Comments Tracker
AP Video Network
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success