Saturday, December 13, 2003

ME, not FL:

An interesting project I came across in one of my programs - Lobster Tales. You can find out where your particular lobster was caught, and find out a bit about the lobsterman who caught it. Purchased live lobsters often come with rubber bands around their claws. The bands from this program have a serial number on them that consumers can enter in the Lobster Tales website also printed on the band. It makes for an interesting connection between a consumer and a provider that has been severed in modern culture.

The idea to extend this tracking into the consumer side of things came from a scientific tracking system gone awry: a lobster with a scientific tag that was supposed to be removed by the fisherman accidentally made it all the way to a Wal-Mart in Wisconsin. A dutiful consumer called the telephone number on the tag, and the science program was left with a lobster catch indicator in the middle of the continent!

Lobsters are an interesting case in the world of aging research - I'm not sure if an upper limit to lobster age is known. They have a very great advantage over us mammals in that their telomeres do not shorten when their cells divide, which is what appears to be the limiting factor for our cell divisions. (FEBS Letters Vol. 439 (1-2) pp. 143-146). When large lobsters are caught, there is no way to tell their age - because they molt, they do not have annual growth marks. The largest lobster on record, weighing 44 lbs 6 oz was probably between 50 and 100 years old (I remember seeing a photo of this monster hanging beside a fisherman many years ago, about 3-4 feet long, but I can't find it on the net).

Here's a Lobster Cam inside a lobster trap in Maine - pity the poor fellow who wanders in (cam is often black - either night-time, or simply disconnected).

The The Lobster Conservancy site has a lot of good information on lobster issues, and you can even "adopt a lobster" here (although I'm not sure I'd want to get that telegram "...regret to inform that your adopted lobster, Elvis, was boiled and eaten on Sept. 12."...)

Hungry yet? Can't get to the The Maine Lobster Festival this year? Jess' Market participates in the Lobster Tales Program, and ships FedEx (unfortunately, their website appears to be somewhat hostile to Mac browsers (Safari and IE...), just be patient, and their page will load eventually).