Lobsters Have Age-Revealing Rings, Just Like Trees

Scientists have figured out a way to determine the age of your lobster

The B-52's - Rock Lobster [Official Music Video]

The video for the world’s greatest lobster-themed new wave surf rock song, the B-52‘s hit Rock Lobster, kicks off with a lobster serving as a make-shift record needle. Let us say that, in the interest of science, we really, really wanted to know the age of said lobster. We know that Rock Lobster came out in 1978 but that the video was made in 1998. But where do we go from here? Unless your particular lobster was born and raised in captivity, there hasn’t traditionally been a very good way to guess how old any particular lobster might be. Heck, scientists aren’t even sure how long lobsters can live in the first place.

Before now, we might never have been able know the age of our Rock Lobster. But scientists led by Raouf Kilada, says the Associated Press, found that “lobsters and other crustaceans, such as crabs and shrimp, grow one ring per year in hidden-away internal spots.”

By counting rings on the lobster’s eyestalks, you can figure out how old it is.

Scientists already could tell a fish’s age by counting the growth rings found in a bony part of its inner ear, a shark’s age from the rings in its vertebrae and a scallop or clam’s age from the rings of its shell.

But crustaceans posed a problem because of the apparent absence of any permanent growth structures. It was thought that when lobsters and other crustaceans molt, they shed all calcified body parts that might record annual growth bands.

Not so, it seems, suggests the new research. Perhaps if you zoom in really, really closely, you can figure out how old the Rock Lobster is. Assuming, of course, that’s it’s real. If not, it’s at least 14 years old.

More from Smithsonian.com:
Coming to Grips With Lobster
George the Lobster Should Stay in Maine Waters

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