Six-clawed mutant lobster goes viral—and goes on display in Maine

Alan Boyle, Science Editor
Source: Richard Figueiredo / F/V Rachel Leah via Maine State Aquarium

Lola the six-clawed lobster has escaped the fate that would face most of her kind, thanks to her genetic mutation, and will be served up in an exhibit case at the Maine State Aquarium rather than on a dinner table.

The mutant crustacean will be on display during regular hours Wednesday through Sept. 29, the aquarium at West Boothbay Harbor said on its Facebook page. Lola will join the museum's other clawed curiosities, including an indigo-blue lobster and a half-red specimen that's been described as a 1-in-50 million rarity.

Lola just might be rarer. She has a typically giant crushing claw on one side, but in place of the normal second claw, there's a hard-shelled appendage that's divided into five fingerlike claws. The abnormality earned Lola a place on this month's viral cabinet of curiosities, alongside a one-eyed kitten born in China.

Aquarium director Aimee Hayden-Roderiques and David Libby, who works at the aquarium for the Department of Marine Resources, said they had never seen a six-clawed lobster before. "It was a first according to many other lobstermen, too — including the entire crew of the F/V Rachel Leah, who caught her," the aquarium's Facebook posting read.

Hugh Jackman in "The Wolverine"
Source: Twentieth Century Fox

The Bangor Daily News reported that Lola was caught off Hyannis, Mass., and brought to the aquarium last Thursday. The 4-pound lobster was named by Peter Brown, captain of the Rachel Leah, which has been featured on the "Lobster Wars" TV series.

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Diane Cowan, senior staff scientist at the Maine-based Lobster Conservancy, explains on her website that repetition of body parts can occur in segmented animals such as lobsters and insects.

Don't Be So Shellfish

Each body part is associated with regulatory genes that tell the animal which appendages should grow on which part of the body. Abnormalities can arise when the genes give the wrong signal — or multiple sets of instructions. It's also possible for developmental changes to occur when claws regenerate after injury.

Functional claws are essential to a lobster's survival — and that's why lobsters with deformities like Lola's don't usually live long enough to make it into someone's boat.

"I've seen a three-clawed lobster," Cowan told NBC News, "but six claws sound like a lot of claws to me. As far as I know, six is a record."