Continuing this week’s discussion of butter and butter-related matters…
I’m reminded of some things I learned recently in browsing through Ellen Prager’s “Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime”. Prager devotes a couple of pages to lobsters. Interesting creatures, lobsters. I wrote a report on them in elementary school, but somehow missed most of the facts she reports.
Lobsters – specifically, Maine lobsters, the ones most Americans think of when the crustacean comes up in conversation – are vicious fighters. There’s a reason they have rubber bands on their claws when you buy them live. They’re highly territorial, and competition for the best dens is fierce. Not too surprising when you consider that the den isn’t just shelter. It’s also the ultimate swinging bachelor pad. No den, no hot lobster babes.
What’s a hot babe if you’re a male lobster? Apparently, it’s one that’ll pee on you. Yup. Lobsters are big on golden showers. Female’s urine contains chemical constituents that not only signal readiness for reproduction, but also temper male aggression. Definitely necessary, as the female needs to molt in order to make her reproductive equipment accessible. One reason why the male needs a den to attract females – a recently-molted lobster is wobbly and unprotected. Without a den to hole up in, the female would likely get eaten by something before her new shell could harden.
As a side note, Prager points out that lobsters often eat their discarded shells after molting as a way to quickly restore their calcium levels and harden the new shell. She also notes that after mating the male will often eat the female’s discarded shell. That may just be the ultimate version of “barefoot and pregnant” in the animal kingdom. Hmm. Do you suppose there’s a market for edible underwear among lobsters? “Here, you eat these. I’ll eat my own damn shell, thank you very much.” Heck, if I were a female lobster, I’d probably be willing to trade the bum for something to wear. Not like I’d need him again any time soon – female lobsters can conserve sperm for (depending on what source you believe) 15 months to three years.
The whole peeing thing gets even better. While female urine is an aphrodisiac (for lobsters, anyway), male urine is a fighting tool. Yep. Lobster fights are literal pissing matches. They have special “pee jets” on the tops of their heads that can shoot a stream up to five feet (that’s seven times their own body length). In a way it’s too bad humans can’t do something similar: I’d think shooting a jet of pee 40 feet into the face of a would-be mugger or rapist would be an even better defense than pepper spray.
Studies have apparently shown that the lobster who pees first and whose pee smells the sweetest tends to win fights; presumably there wouldn’t be much of a market for asparagus among lobsters. Hey, ever wonder why “the first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club”? It would have been a very different movie if humans fought the same way as lobsters.
Given their fighting ways and penchant for unsavory uses of waste fluids, it’s perhaps unsurprising that early Americans considered lobsters to be trash. I think I’ll refrain from speculating on possible societal changes that might have accompanied the lobster’s rise to the top of the prestige food chain.
One final note on lobsters: I had known that they were capable of regrowing most body parts – a useful talent given how often pincers and legs are lost during fights – and I even knew that trick doesn’t work for their eyes. What I hadn’t known was that it’s not that eyes don’t grow back, it’s that other body parts grow in their place. Lobsters that lose eyes tend to wind up with extra walking legs instead. Needless to say, there isn’t much of a market for glass eyes among lobsters.
Side note for Bill: Imagine what it would be like among humans if we had the same regenerative capability as lobsters: not only would the blind carry white canes, they’d probably wear white shoes on their extra feet. Or would they have to wear a different color of shoe after Labor Day?
I hope the above discussion has killed your appetite for lobster. That will, after all, leave more for me. With plenty of drawn butter, of course. See, it does tie in with our theme.