Monday, February 27, 2017

Our Yellow Lobster; One in 30 Million

By Rebecca Proulx, communications intern

While many a New Englander can attest to seeing quite a few lobsters in their days, only a handful can say they have seen a yellow one. A yellow lobster is an extremely rare find—one in 30 million, in fact. But do not be discouraged, at the Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport, you can peer at one right in his face. Our lobster has called the Exploration Center home for two years now after a local fisherman caught him in his pot. This fisherman is one of many who’ve been bringing in creatures needing extra care to the Exploration Center for years, Save The Bay will give them the proper care they need and share them with community who wouldn’t otherwise get to see them.

In fact, the Exploration Center is one of Save The Bay’s ways of connecting the community to the Bay. Our interns love to tell visitors that our lobster’s yellow color spawns from a genetic mutation within its DNA, which codes for color pigmentation. Lobsters have adapted over 300 million years to perfect their exteriors against the keen eyes of their predators, so the blatant discoloration of this lobster from his environment would make our friend easy to gobble up as a next meal.

And his color isn’t the only odd thing about him. Like all of his brethren out in the wild, our lobster is extremely territorial and has an extraordinary way of marking his land-peeing from his eyes. When a lobster finds an area he wants to claim, he guards it with his life and fights other lobsters when necessary. As an act of triumph, the victor celebrates by shooting pee out of his eyes. The defeated lobster will forever recognize the smell of his superior’s pee and stay out of his way.

Silly as they seem, lobsters are first level carnivores and perform a vital function to our ecosystem by cleaning the floor of the Narragansett Bay and eating whatever lies on the bottom. Some may say, “so what? They vacuum, I only do that once in a blue moon when company comes.” However, the lobster’s job is much more essential than a little tidying up. Without lobsters mopping up the bay floor, much of the marine life that inhabits the benthic such as oysters, flounder and quahog would perish due to a loss of habitat from all that clutter.

Unfortunately all of these tasty bottom-dwellers are at risk, because our cleaning maids of the estuary are moving. “Due to climate change, our water temperature has risen four degrees Fahrenheit since 1930, so the lobsters have been forced to migrate further and further north each year to seek the cold environment they require,” Adam Kovarsky, the Exploration Center Manager explains. While a four-degree difference may not seem like much to us humans, the aquatic animals sense this change acutely. Rhode Island is the southernmost region where large lobster populations still exist, but that’s gradually changing.

Save The Bay remains dedicated to preserving this lobster population, as it is with all marine life that possess a crucial role in our ecosystem and community. Our organization is actively trying to tackle this issue in numerous ways. Save The Bay offers numerous education outreach projects such as aquarium visits and seal watches. Our hope is that these programs will instill the importance of the local species and proper water quality in the public. These efforts will also hopefully herald future generations of environmental advocates.

Adam makes an important point in saying, that all of their work in the Exploration Center is “...to show people what’s out there. One day, hopefully, if we’re able to manage the planet, as great as a resource as this is, there won’t be a need for it.” Until that day comes, Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium remains steadfast in Newport to educate visitors about the wonderful staples and rarities of species our Bay has to offer.

Come visit the Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium to say hello to our special lobster and other incredible species soon! Our winter season (Labor Day-Memorial Day) hours are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are located at 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840. General admission is $8; $7 for military and seniors; free for children 3 years and under and Save The Bay Family Members. You can even feed our friend from 5:00-6:00 p.m. and see how he eats along with sharks, octopuses, and many more at our Feeding Frenzy event. Feeding Frenzy admission is $10 and you can call 401-324-6020 or click here to register.