Lobsters are well known for their natural ability to regenerate lost limbs, but one found in a lobster trap by fishermen from the village of Port Isaac, Corwall, in southwest England, faced obvious challenges. Clawdia — who could resist calling her that? — had all four legs missing on her left side, as well as both claws. She was heavily berried, laden with some 5,000 fertilized eggs. So the fishermen from the Mary D decided to take her to the nearby National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow. Here lobster experts fed and nursed her while the eggs developed and the larvae were released. And she astounded everyone by repaying them with a highly-unusual comeback to defensive health through an extraordinary moult.
Spokespersons for the hatchery explained that lobsters (and other crustaceans) regenerate lost legs and claws through the moulting process. New limbs develop under the old hardened shell which is shed when the animal grows. The new shell is initially soft and more vulnerable to attack until it too hardens over the course of some weeks.
Senior hatchery technician Ben Marshall said Clawdia moulted in mid-December, to reveal four fully-formed new left legs, and two fully-formed but smaller than usual claws. He explained that over the course of the next couple of moults, the claws will reach their full size.
Marshall speculated that Clawdia had been healthy when she was attacked in the lobster trap, possibly by other lobsters, and would have almost certainly have died, and her larvae with her. He explained that in the wild only about one in every 20,000 lobster eggs survives to become a reproducing adult. In the hatchery, Marshall said they expect to get about a 20% egg-to-juvenile survival rate.
Asked about Clawdia’s likely age, Marshall said her carapace length was 97mm and it was probably a year since she had last moulted when she was caught in August. This was maybe her second moult as an adult, and possibly her first or second batch of eggs.