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Freckles The "One In 30 Million" Calico Lobster Narrowly Avoided Becoming Dinner

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Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockMay 12 2021, 15:50 UTC
Freckles The "One In 30 Million" Calico Lobster Narrowly Avoided Becoming Dinner

Image Courtesy of Red Lobster

When it comes to catching crustaceans, fishing for lobsters can be something of a treasure hunt. Among the typical gray-green wild body type of this popular seafood exist some bizarre and - occasionally very rare - exceptions. One such lobster recently avoided becoming part of the menu at a Red Lobster restaurant, but luckily for Freckles staff quickly realized they’d stumbled across something special.

Our speckly star, Freckles, is what’s known as a calico lobster, characterized by a body that’s covered in dark blue and bright orange spots. He was discovered among a delivery of lobster from Maine received by a Red Lobster restaurant in Manassas, Virginia. Recognizing they had some unusual catch on their hands, the restaurant contacted the Virginia Living Museum where Freckles will go on display as one of the museum’s many living exhibits.

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Calico is a word used to describe animals that are multicolored. For Freckles and other calico lobsters, this is typically a blend of bright yet/orange and dark blue-green specks. Calico cats are any domestic breed of cat whose coat is made up of tricolor splodges.

In terms of lobster royalty, calicos sit alongside yellow lobsters as a one in 30 million find. A yellow lobster called Banana was scooped up by crew in Maine back in February. The odds of catching a blue lobster are one in 2 million, and for both blue and yellow lobsters, the unusual coloration is the result of a genetic mutation in the proteins that bond with shell pigments.

"Crystal lobsters" have a pigment condition called leucism that makes animals appear pale compared to others. Interestingly, they're the only wacky lobster variety that doesn't turn red when cooked, which in typical specimens is the result of shell proteins unwinding in the heat and releasing the pigment molecule astaxanthin. In the case of crystal lobsters, these turbo-rare crustaceans are one in 100 million – something of a shiny among the Pokémon Cards of Life.

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Another worthy entry in the Top Trumps of weird lobsters is one specimen found in Nova Scotia, Canada, that sprouted an extra claw on its claw. Repetition of body parts is not uncommon in arthropods, which are characterized by their body blueprints of repeating segmented parts. Each segment has a set of regulatory genes that determine what appendages grow on that part, so when a surprise claw pops up in the wrong place it’s the result of a signaling error from the regulatory genes.

And, just in case it’s been a hot minute since you were disappointed in humanity, one lobster was found by a crew on board a fishing vessel in New Brunswick, Canada, with the logo of a Pepsi can imprinted on its claw. The unusual catch was reeled in by Karissa Lindstrand, who immediately recognized the branding as a self-confessed daily consumer of 12 cans of Pepsi, but that’s a story for another day.


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