A lobster believed to be over 100-years-old has been saved from the cooking pot by a coordinated effort in Florida. Larry, as the crustacean has been named (after the Lobster lifeguard at Bikini Bottom’s beach in Spongebob Squarepants), had been reserved for a family feast by customers at Tin Fish, a seafood restaurant on Sunset Strip in Sunrise, but when word got out about his impending fate, several businesses got involved to stage an 11th hour rescue.
Weighing in at 15lb (6.8kg), it was Larry’s impressive size (which gives an indication of his age) that propelled him into the headlines after restaurant owner Joe Melluso snapped him up from a vendor for $200. ‘Jumbo lobsters we get are usually between three and five pounds, so this was over three times the size of a regular jump lobster,’ Melluso enthused to local media.
The subsequent news coverage caught the attention of animal lover John Merritt, who runs iRescue, a site for rehoming creatures of all species. He contacted the restaurant and offered to cover the price of an alternative meal for the family, in return for Larry’s life.
‘When there was a group that wanted to save him, I was disappointed in myself for not having that feeling myself,’ Melluso told News 6.
‘They really opened up my eyes and it got me a little emotional,’ Melluso said. ‘We went ahead and donated the lobster to them.’This was despite the fact that the diners who had already chosen Larry had already showed up, ready to chow down. They made do with a fish instead.
Several South Florida business owners then chipped in to cover the expense of moving the long-in-the-tooth lobster to Maine State Aquarium, not far from where he was caught in the first place. Some animal rights groups are now pushing for him to be released back into the wild.
But is Larry really a centenarian crustacean, as Melluso claimed? The restauranter used a theory that attributes seven years of life for every pound of weight, but such assumptions are questionable.
‘There’s no confirmed way to tell a lobster’s age, though you can make a guesstimate based on their size and current growth models,’ Dr Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute in Maine, told the ABC.
However, a University of New Brunswick study in 2012 stated that you can tell the age of lobsters and crabs by growth bands in the eye or gastric mill (a collection of teeth and small bones crustaceans have inside their stomachs, used to grind up food).
It is true that lobsters continue to grow throughout their lives (they moult every few years, dispensing with their old shells and growing a new exoskeleton) and can live long lives and grow to a huge size (the biggest ever caught was 20kg and over a metre long), but sadly, contrary to some claims, they are not biologically immortal.
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