All lobsters sort of have a wizened look about them, whether you encounter them in the wild or in a fish tank at the grocery store. They can’t all be old and wise, however, and now scientists have discovered exactly how to determine a lobster’s age. The spectacular answer is to count its rings, just as you would a tree.

For a long time, no one could tell how many years lobsters were capable of living. Some scientists guesstimated the number was in the decades, and could even be up to 100 years. A group of Canadian scientists did not believe a guesstimate was enough of an answer and began to take data from a variety of species, including lobsters, snow crabs, and two varieties of shrimp to discern the age of various crustaceans. It was thought that yearly molting might rid the species of any sort of age record, but with some of the study participants this turned out to be untrue.

According to the AP, the Canadian group found that the age of lobsters could be determined by growth rings on the eyestalk—very much like the rings on a tree trunk. In the lobsters and crabs, the rings could also be found in the gastric mills of both species stomachs. Of course, the rings are internal, which poses a bit of a problem. The creatures had to be dissected and the rings had to be looked at under microscopes to determine age—which means scientists can’t run around all willy nilly determining the age of the creatures. Still, in the future, it should help scientists to determine how old the creatures are, rather than simply using 100 years as a guessing mark.

If you are interested in the subject, the study was published in this month’s issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.



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