Most lobsters that end up in fish market tanks are wearing the same camouflage, a dull green-brown, but every so often, an oddly colored one comes along.
Last week, a Roche Bros. in Westborough stumbled upon a lobster that was bright orange, a color normally seen in lobsters only when they’re cooked and ready to be cracked and dipped in butter.
The neon lobster was found among a shipment of normally colored lobsters at the supermarket on May 27, said Josh Naughton, the Roche Bros. director of deli, seafood, and bakery. It had been shipped from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia a few days prior, he said.
The lobster weighs 1 2/3 pounds and is most likely about 7 to 9 years old.
“He is a wily character to have reached that age given his day-glo appearance in the briny, dark depths of the north Atlantic,” said a joint statement from Roche Bros. and the New England Aquarium. “With that color, he is flashing a neon sign to many large fish predators, so he deserves much credit to have survived.”
The bright, pumpkin-like color is most likely because of a lack of certain proteins, said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the aquarium.
“There is a genetic component, but usually in these particular lobsters, there’s a lack of proteins that are critical for the bonding of different pigments,” LaCasse said. “Most oranges are calicos, a mix of mottled black and orange . . . But he’s a really outstanding orange.”
There’s a one in 30 million chance of seeing a naturally occurring orange lobster, but because so many are caught every year, at least a handful are expected to show up each season, Naughton said. About 15 years ago, the Westborough supermarket found a rare blue lobster.
“Summer is the season when lobster demand and catches are at their peak,” the statement said. “Between New England and eastern Canada, at least 300 million lobsters are landed each year, so those huge lottery-like numbers on the incidence of oddly colored lobsters actually bear out over a long season.”
The animal was still resting at the Westborough store Wednesday afternoon, but store officials plan to take it to the aquarium Thursday morning. Once it undergoes a monthlong quarantine period there, it will be displayed in an exhibit either in Boston or in a public aquarium in Japan, LaCasse said.
“We just as easily could have sold that lobster and not thought twice about it,” Naughton said. “But for a lobster of that color to live that long with no natural protection, I think we owe it to him to live out the rest of his days in peace.”Elise Takahama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.