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The Courier-Gazette, May 11, 2002

Friendship students examine lobster's life

by Steve Rzasa

FRIENDSHIP—Students at Friendship Village School are getting a much closer look at the life of a lobster.

Researchers from the Lobster Conservancy are spending two moths working with fifth- and sixth-graders, charting the growth and development of lobsters from their larval stages to adulthood.

The project was made possible by a grant from MBNA's Education in Excellence program.

Dan O'Grady, one of the researchers and an Island Institute fellow, showed off the two larval tanks and third fish tank set up in one of Carol Eustler's classroom. A female egger—a lobster that is already carrying fertilized eggs—is kept in the classroom and when the eggs begin to hatch, the larvae are set in the larval tanks to grow. Once they reach the larger juvenile stage, the tiny lobsters are transferred to the third fish tank.

The students take an active role in the care and observation of the young lobsters. O'Grady said the keep track of the ammonia, pH and salinity levels of the tank water, making sure the water quality is consistent. They also are responsible for feeding the lobsters.

O'Grady said the students also have been learning about plankton, and the role it plays in feeding lobsters. Sarah Gladu of the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension came in to the classroom on one occasion to discuss phyloplankton.

Once the students have researched the entire life cycle, according to O'Grady, they will write up their findings and send them beck to MBNA.

Diane Cowan, senior scientist and founder of the Lobster Conservancy, gave a presentadon Thursday morning on the life cycle of the lobster.

"The lobster life cycle I think of as going from egg to plate," she said.

At the conservancy, the scientists study lobster behavior, Cowan said, explaining why the female lobster she held up for inspection had an "F' on one claw and "20" on another. Each lobster is numbered and lettered by sex so that researchers can keep an accurate record of their observations.

The lobsters also are tagged because, when they shed their shells, the painted numbers are lost.

Cowan described the differences between the male and female lobsters' noting that females can be identibed by their smaller claws and the long, feathery protrusionson their underside that are used to carry the eggs. Males tend to have larger claws, in order to impress the females.

Cowan said males with larger crusher claws are better able to defend a female that is molting; females molt right before they mate.


©2003 The Lobster Conservancy.
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