The nature of things
Lobster and scampi
AN armour-plated hunter lurking on the seabed along much of the eastern Atlantic from Norway to Morocco, the European lobster (Homarus gammarus; bottom left, bottom right) is very similar to its North American cousin. If left to develop fully, it could reach some 2ft in length and nearly 14lb in weight, although, occasionally, even larger specimens have been caught.
In order to grow, it must moult periodically, wriggling out of the hard, dark-blue shell that provides such useful protection, but at such times must remain hidden from predators while its new exoskeleton forms, the process taking several weeks in a mature animal. The old shell, however, has its own value, being full of the necessary calcium that will enable this to happen, so it will therefore be kept close by and eaten, bit by bit, by the vulnerable, soft creature.
Even the ‘walking’ legs each side will achieve some degree of armour and the formidable front claws—a large, blunt one used for crushing and a differently formed one for cutting prey—become particularly strong.
The smaller ‘Norway lobster’ (Nephrops norvegicus; top left, top right), also known as langoustine or scampi, occupies much of the same north-east Atlantic territory. Bearing long, thin claws, it’s naturally creamy-orange tinted even without being cooked and spends most of its lifetime in a burrow, tunnelled up to 12in into the seabed. KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe