What the Shell? Cracking the Lobster’s Mysteries

Consider the lobster roll: tender chunks of lobster bathed in butter or mayo, sandwiched between two slices of a squishy bread roll… Have we caught your attention yet? Lobster is a summertime staple in New England, a fixture on casino and cruise ship buffets, and a steady partner for steak in the classic surf 'n' turf.

Today, the American lobster industry is the single most valuable fishery in the country—but it wasn’t always so. This episode, we're cracking the lobster's many mysteries, including how it went from prison fare to fancy food. There's also the question of what lobster eyes have to do with both the International Space Station and the belief in Intelligent Design, plus the rollicking tale of why it took scientists so long to locate the lobster penis—and what makes lobster sex so, well, steamy? Listen in now for the lobster lore you never knew you needed to know!

Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, 2017.

Episode Notes

Trevor Corson and The Secret Life of Lobsters

Trevor Corson is a writer, editor, and teacher who spent two years working full-time on commercial fishing boats before writing The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists are Unraveling the Mysteries of our Favorite Crustacean, which is fantastic, and was rightly named a Best Nature Book of the Year by USA Today and Discover magazine.

Rick Wahle

Rick Wahle is a research professor and director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine. He studies the effect of the ocean’s environment on marine benthic populations. In 1989, Rick founded the American Lobster Settlement Index, which has been monitoring larval settlement as a predictor of future lobster populations.

Raouf Kilada

Raouf Kilada is a marine scientist at the University of New Brunswick and the Suez Canal University in Egypt. His technique for identifying the age of a lobster using the teeth in its stomach has produced more accurate results than any previous model; he offers his services in "aquatic age determination" of lobster, crab, shrimp, and krill through his start-up, OceAge.

Alamgir Karim

Alamgir Karim is a professor and director of the Materials Engineering Program at the University of Houston. His areas of interest and research include polymer nanotechnology of thin films, surfaces, and interfaces related to energy, sustainability, and human health. His lab is researching the development of bullet-proof coatings made from chitosan, a lobster shell byproduct.

Audrey Moores

Audrey Moores is an associate professor of chemistry at McGill University, where she researches nanoparticles and catalysis for green chemistry. Audrey has developed a new, cleaner way to create chitosan from lobster shells without toxic waste.