Lobster research. (Photo: University of Prince Edward Island)
Researchers discover how to tell the age of lobsters
Wednesday, December 05, 2012, 05:40 (GMT + 9)
Scientists at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) have discovered a method for telling the exact age of lobsters.
Research associate Raouf Kilada and colleagues explained that lobsters have rings on their bodies that can be counted to determine how many years they have lived, Clarke Canfield of the Associated Press (AP) reports.
The results were published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
Other marine animals, such as sharks also present growth rings on their bones and scallops or clams have rings on their shells. However, until now, there was no way to tell the age of crustaceans because they did not seem to possess any permanent growth structures; scientists had thought that crustaceans molted, getting rid of all calcified body parts that might record their age in the form of annual growth bands.
The team examined lobsters, snow crabs, northern shrimp and sculptured shrimp and discovered that they have growth rings in their eyestalks, which are structures that connect their eyeballs to their bodies. In lobsters and crabs, the rings could also be found in an area of their stomachs known as the “gastric mill,” where tooth-like formations help grind up food for digestion.
The scientists dissected the eyestalks and the gastric mills of these crustaceans, sliced out sections and analysed them under microscopes, CBC News reports.
“Comparison of growth band counts with reliable, independent estimates of age strongly suggests that the bands form annually, thus providing a direct and accurate method of age determination in all of the species examined,” the team wrote.
This discovery can help regulators make better-informed decisions on how to manage lobster stocks, Kilada said.
“Having the age information for any commercial species will definitely improve the stock assessment and ensure sustainability,” he said, FrenchTribune.com reports.
Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine's Lobster Institute, noted that scientists will finally be able to document their suspicions that lobsters could live to 100 years old, AP reports.
By Natalia Real