Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

After traveling hundreds of miles from her Atlantic home, she arrived at a Zehrs grocery store in Uxbridge in early July – only to be destined for a plate.

But when the staff at the seafood department opened her box, they immediately knew there was something special about the orange lobster. Packed with several other lobsters, “she certainly stood out with her vibrant color,” says shellfish chef Jackie McNabb. In his 17 years in the store, McNabb had never seen anything like it.

After doing some research, she discovered that this was actually a very rare lobster – about one in 30 million. McNabb separated her from the others, cut her claws, and fed her.

Looking to find the lobster a permanent home, McNabb asked his daughter Jessica Prescott for relief. To the delight of the seafood team, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada adopted the lobster after Prescott contacted the attraction in mid-August.

Ripley is called the lucky crustacean — determined by her size to be a six- or seven-year-old female Homarus americanus (common name: American lobster) -Clementine.

Ben Devereux, senior aquarist at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, has a rare orange lobster that can live for 100 years.

According to Kevin McAvoy, Ripley’s assistant director of animal husbandry, American lobsters are found in the Atlantic Ocean along the east coast of Canada and the United States, from Labrador in the north to around North Carolina in the south. “They prefer cold, shallow water with lots of rock cover,” McAvoy says. “This helps them avoid predators and be close to molluscs, like mussels, which are their favorite food.”

Mutations in the genes that create the pigments, such as albinism, can have dramatic effects on the appearance of a lobster. “Blue lobster, red, calicos, white, split colors and orange are all possible,” McAvoy says. “There is no guarantee that these colors will go down if and when they mate.”

American lobsters can live for 100 years, according to McAvoy. “Orange lobster is no different … in captivity,” he says. “In the wild, their bright color prevents them from camouflaging and makes them more obvious to predators, reducing their chances of retiring.”

Clementine will be in good company at Ripley, where there are 14 lobsters — including two other oranges, Kumquat and Pinchy, the latter of which arrived in mid-September. “We have a lot of experience with unusual lobsters,” McAvoy says. “We even have one with a third claw.”

If Clementine were sold at Zehrs, she would have fetched around $ 20, says shellfish manager Jackie McNabb, who is excited that the lobster will live a full and happy life.

This was not the first time Ripley’s has adopted a creature with the help of the public. “We occasionally have people reaching out from supermarkets or fishing,” McAvoy says. “When people see something so unusual, it makes them curious and makes them ask questions. It’s one of the best ways to get people interested in learning about marine life. And when people know about these animals and care about them, they will do their part in protecting them, whether it reduces their carbon footprint or only eats sustainable seafood. ”

Those eager to meet Clementine will have to wait. Although the pound of lobster “is in good health, except for a few minor shellfish problems,” McAvoy says, there is a minimum 90-day mandatory quarantine period for all new animals to protect the health of others.

When the quarantine ends in October, McAvoy will look forward to moving Clementine to an exhibition. “It can be complicated to show animals,” he says, “and we need to balance the needs of the animals and the space available. Lobsters are not very social and need their own space.” It is also possible that Clementine may be transferred to a Ripley’s in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Had Clementine sold at Zehrs, she would have fetched around $ 20, says McNabb, who is excited that the lobster will live a full and happy life and that thousands will come to see her. “Knowing that (she) gets a chance to teach and be admired,” she says, “is invaluable to (Zehrs) staff.”

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