If you believe everything you read, you may recall seeing a lobster meme in the summer of 2013 -- a photo of a lobster with the phrase "biologically immortal, delicious with butter." I can attest to the latter part, but the former isn't true. Lobsters don't age in the same way as most other animals – they don't get weaker or lose their ability to reproduce, and will keep on molting and growing. However, that doesn't mean that they live forever. At some point, even if they aren't caught, they die due to natural causes. Often this is because they run out of energy to molt at all and not molting leads to fatal diseases [source: Koren].
So, we know that lobsters eventually die, but we aren't quite sure when. Lobsters reach their adult size when they weigh between 1.5 and 2 pounds (680 and 907 grams), but the heaviest one ever caught clocked in at 44 pounds (20 kilograms) [source: BBC]. Some estimate that lobsters in the wild can live up to 50 years.
Scientists estimate a lobster's age by measuring levels of materials known to accumulate in its body over time, such as deposits of fat in its eyestalks or a pigment called eurolipofuscin in its brain [source: Koren]. The latest research indicates that the best way to estimate lobster age may be by counting age bands well hidden inside the gastric mill in one of its stomachs [source: Poppick].
Author's Note: 10 Unusual Lobster Facts
The entire time I was writing this article, I kept craving lobster. I've never ordered a whole one because I'm pretty sure I'd end up covering myself and other diners with pieces of it. And although I love to cook, I've never attempted a whole fresh lobster. I'm of the mind that lobsters probably don't suffer much if at all, but I still feel squeamish about cooking my own live food.
- Anderson, Genevieve. "Lobster Mariculture." Santa Barbara City College. June 15, 2009. (July 15, 2014) http://www.marinebio.net/marinescience/06future/lobsterfarm.htm#top
- Baltimore Sun. "Lobsters are unlikely to feel pain, report says." Feb. 18, 2005. (July 14, 2014) http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2005-02-18/news/0502180376_1_lobsters-feel-pain-animal-welfare
- BBC News. "Giant lobster landed by boy, 16." June 26, 2002. (July 14, 2014) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/kent/5118370.stm
- Cowan, Diane. "Ask the Lobster Doc." The Lobster Conservancy. 2003. (July 14, 2014) http://www.lobsters.org/ldoc/ldocindx.php
- Cowan, Diane. Serial Monogamy in Homarus americanus." Lobster Newsletter. July 1990. (July 16, 2014) http://www.lobstermanspage.net/lobstrs/articles/sermon1.html
- Cressey, Daniel. "Experiments reveal that crabs and lobsters feel pain." Nature. Aug. 7, 2013. (July 14, 2014) http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/08/experiments-reveal-that-crabs-and-lobsters-feel-pain.html
- Dembosky, April. "How lobster clawed its way up." Mother Jones. March 2006. (July 14, 2014) http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2006/03/how-lobster-clawed-its-way
- Doucleff, Maureen. "Caught: Lobster Cannibals Captured On Film Along Maine Coast." NPR. Dec. 3, 2012. (July 16, 2014) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/03/166235228/caught-lobster-cannibals-captured-on-film-along-maine-coast
- Ellicot, Claire. "How to kill a lobster with kindness." Daily Mail. Nov. 23, 2009. (July 15, 2014) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-1230020/How-kill-lobster-kindness.html
- FDA. "FDA Advises Against Consumption of Tomalley from American Lobster (also known as "Maine Lobster")." June 28, 2008 (July 28, 2014) http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2008/ucm116927.htm
- Gosselin, T., et al. "Geographic variation of multiple paternity in the American lobster, Homarus americanus." Molecular Ecology. April 2005. (July 15, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15813789
- Gulf of Maine Research Institute. "Kinds of Lobsters." Feb. 27. 2012. (July 22, 2014) http://www.gma.org/lobsters/allaboutlobsters/species.html
- Koren, Marina. "Don't Listen to the Buzz: Lobsters Aren't Immortal." Smithsonian. June 3, 2013. (July 14, 2014) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dont-listen-to-the-buzz-lobsters-arent-actually-immortal-88450872/
- Krulwich, Robert. "Long Live The Lobster: Forever Young?" NPR. June 16, 2007. (July 14, 2014) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11382976
- Lobster Conservancy. "Lobster Biology." 2004. (July 14, 2014) http://www.lobsters.org/tlcbio/biology.html
- Markey, Sean. "Unknown Life of Lobsters: Sex, Robots, and Beyond." National Geographic Society. Aug. 24, 2004. (July 16, 2014) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/08/0824_040824_lobster.html
- McCarthy, Erin. "25 Delicious Facts About Lobsters." Mental Floss. 2014. (July 13, 2014) http://mentalfloss.com/article/57241/25-delicious-facts-about-lobsters
- NOAA Fisheries Service. "Lobster FAQ." 2002. (July 13, 2014) http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/faq/fishfaq7.htmlNational Geographic Society. "Lobster." 2014. (July 14, 2014) http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/lobster/
- Pelzel, Raquel. "How to Kill a Lobster." July 7, 2007. (July 15, 2014) The Wall street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118375568129659493
- Poppick, Laura. "Tree Rings For Lobsters." Science Magazine. Dec. 10, 2012. (July 15, 2014) http://news.sciencemag.org/earth/2012/12/tree-rings-lobsters
- Prisco, Joanna. "Cracking the Cost of Lobster." ABC News. Aug. 22, 2013. (July 13, 2014) http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/cracking-cost-lobster/story?id=20029609
- St. Lawrence Global Observatory. "American Lobster." 2014. (July 14, 2014) http://slgo.ca/en/lobster/context/characteristics.html
- Viegas, Jennifer. "Mysterious, Colorful Lobsters Being Caught." Discovery News. July 23, 2012. (July 14, 2014). http://news.discovery.com/animals/lobsters-colorful-maine-120723.htm
The Swiss government has banned boiling live lobster because it deemed the practice cruel. HowStuffWorks looks at both sides of the argument.