California spiny lobster sheds its shell

A lobster's exoskeleton after molting

Breaking news…the California spiny lobster at Cabrillo Aquarium molted two weeks ago! Okay, so it’s not breaking news in the truest sense of the term, but it did happen very recently. I would have written about this sooner, but I just found out. If only I had known, I would have loved to watch that…sigh.

But better late than never as they say because in this case we get a chance to take a look at the recently discard shell. It’s a bit hard to see in the picture, but the lobster even sheds the outer most layer of its eyeballs. Take a look at the center of the shell, there’s an opening just under the carapace, that’s where the lobster crawls out.

And now is the perfect time for a refresher on lobster molting. Lobsters wear their skeletons on the outside of their body, which is officially called the exoskeleton and brings meaning to the crust part of crustacean. However, molting isn’t like taking off a heavy jacket when you’re too hot, it’s closer to ripping off all your skin at once.

To provide you with more fascinating molting facts, I need to reread sections of my favorite lobster book “The Secret Life of Lobsters” by Trevor Corson. Just to be clear this book is all about Homarus americanus, the American lobster with claws that everyone eats for dinner. So bummer it’s not about Panulirus interruptus, the California spiny lobster, but according to a scientist I talked to, many aspects of being a lobster are universal making Corson’s book a great reference. I’m off to find the section on molting, check back tomorrow for more!

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