Lobsters Aren’t So Stupid After All!

My grandparents lived in the wonderful little town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. My family would visit them nearly every summer, and I loved it. It was right near the beach, and the seafood was amazing! I remember the first time I saw this kind of device there:

An unlucky lobster in a "trap"
(Photo licensed through www.clipart.com)

I asked my parents what it was, and they told me it was a lobster trap. I was skeptical. After all, it was just a wooden cage with some netting, and the netting had a big hole in it. I asked my parents how it could trap anything. After all, if something could crawl in the hole, it could crawl right back out again, right? My parents told me that lobsters were too stupid to do that. They would crawl in the hole to get the bait inside, but they would not know enough to back out of the hole, and since they couldn’t turn around in the small enclosure, they would end up being trapped. I remained skeptical, but I asked lots of people in that small New England town, and they all gave me the same story my parents gave me. After all, it was “well known.”

Of course, science has a way of telling us that lots of “well known” things are 100% incorrect!

It turns out someone finally decided to see what actually happens when a lobster trap is put on the ocean floor with bait in it. University of New Hampshire zoologists put underwater video equipment on a lobster trap, and what they saw amazed everyone, even the people who had been lobster fishing all their lives1.

The video showed that once the lobster trap was lowered to the ocean floor, the lobsters swarmed it, and they went in and out of the lobster trap as they pleased. So lobsters aren’t as stupid as everyone believes. The lobsters had no problem entering the trap, feasting on the bait, and leaving the trap again.

Now wait a minute. The reason we can have lobster for dinner is because the lobster traps work, right? Well..sort of. An article in the University of New Hampshire’s magazine says:

…a mere 6 percent of the lobsters who entered [the traps] were caught, largely because they had the bad luck to be in a trap when it was hauled up. Instead of a Crustacean Hotel where the lobsters would “check in and never check out,” the lobster traps worked more like a 24-hour roadhouse where the patrons are generally free to leave – usually through the supposed one-way entrance. 2

When will people learn to never underestimate God’s creation?


1. Jury, S.H., et al., “Lobster Trap Video, in situ video surveillance of the behavior of Homarus americanus in and around traps, Marine and Freshwater Research 52:1125-1132, 2001
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2. Stuart, V., Crustaceans with Attitude, p. 3, 2004
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2 thoughts on “Lobsters Aren’t So Stupid After All!”

  1. Nice. If your interested, it seems in Mozambique (probably elsewhere too) they just get in the water and pounce on the lobster. I found that out when we went on holiday to the beach for my young brother’s birthday a few weeks before I moved to boarding school in Malawi, and saw a jubilant man emerge from the water clutching the blue crustacian to his chest. We got some more details from a local waiter while the birthday-boy was after advice on how to eat guess what.

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