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Rare Calico Lobster Turns Heads, And Escapes Dinner Menu

The calico lobster known as Calvin is shown in this photo provided by Boston's New England Aquarium. The lobster is dark with bright orange and yellow spots.
Tony LaCasse
/
New England Aquarium
The calico lobster known as Calvin is shown in this photo provided by Boston's New England Aquarium. The lobster is dark with bright orange and yellow spots.

A calico lobster that had been living in obscurity off the coast of Maine has now been catapulted into a sort of celebrity, thanks to its rare coloring: a calico mix of orange and yellow spots. Researchers say it could be a 1 in 30 million specimen.

The invertebrate was caught off Winter Harbor, Maine; it was saved from the cooking pot at Jasper White's Summer Shack restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., after the staff noticed its striking coloration.

Chef Jasper White tells The Boston Globe that he named the lobster Calvin — and contacted the New England Aquarium, which then made plans to pick Calvin up. The lobster will eventually take up residence at the Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island, according to the aquarium.

A post at the aquarium's blog explains that lobsters come in many different colors, ranging from brown and orange to white.

"While white appears to be the most rare at an estimated 1 in 100 million, coming in second place with an approximate 1 in 30 million is the calico lobster," according to the aquarium's exhibit galleries blog.

Owing to a lack of mirrors on the ocean floor, the calico lobster was very likely unaware of its own rarity. Still, it's the second calico lobster the aquarium has been given this year. An unusual number of the calicos were found in 2009, a spokesman tells the Globe.

And lobsters also come in blue. Back in 2009, Morning Edition reported on lobsterman Bill Marconi, who was hauling in his catch only to realize that what he had at first glance assumed was a blue Miller Lite beer can was actually a blue lobster.

As Steve Inskeep reported, "Mr. Marconi says he has no plans to cook his catch. Instead, he may donate it to a marine science center. And he told a local newspaper, of course, he is planning to get a blue lobster tattoo."

Or perhaps Marconi could have followed the model of Gerard de Nerval, the French artist who famously kept a pet lobster, which he named Thibault. He reportedly walked the crustacean in the gardens of the Palais-Royal, on a leash. And he gave a convincing explanation for his choice in non-human companions.

"I have affection for lobsters," Nerval said. "They are tranquil, serious and they know the secrets of the sea."

That anecdote, attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire, was included in a Harper's feature in 2008, which also laid out new evidence that Nerval had, in fact, taken a lobster as his pet.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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