Lobsters are regarded by some as the “knights of the seas”, and by others, the “roach of the deep.”
Either way, they are well adapted to the bottom of the briny deep with flexible joints in their suits of armor allowing them to navigate and maneuver.
Apart from human hunters, the lobster has nearly no predators.
They not only have powerful claws but a keen sense of danger and skills of communication unique to them.
When protected by shipwreck reefs, these creatures can live up to 100 years.
How Do Lobsters Communicate? (10 Ways)
1. Mating Communication
There are many different languages that a lobster can “speak”, and love is number one on the list.
At least twice per year, the female lobster is ready and waiting in the soft-shell state as she can carry sperm for two years and reproduce when needed.
The whole system is very well organized, yet the male lobster is still tasked with communicating to her that he’s ready, and she communicates that she is also ready to reproduce.
How is this communicated between them?
The female communicates to the male lobster that she’s molted her shell and is now ready to mate by releasing pheromones into the water.
You can only imagine that this is noticed by every able-bodied male lobster in the area.
As she waits comfortably at a distance, a fight ensues between several lobsters.
Once the strongest male wins the fight and the other simply retreats, the winner will signal the female with his body language, and then he will whisk her away into his cave.
He then stands guard using more body language, such as raised claws and aggressive lunges to protect her from predators.
When she signals that she’s ready and has molted sufficiently, he will mate with her.
There are three communications in this whole process as was explained here.
2. Peeing Is The Lobster Language
In our first point, we talked about pheromones released by the female lobster when she’s ready to mate.
However, those same pheromones are used to protect the lobster and communicate information to other lobsters and potential predators.
The lobster will throw out a urine stream several feet away from itself via the gills that lie just below the urinary glands.
This can be felt by anything that may harm the lobster at a far enough distance to repel it in time.
A mating lobster will also use this method, as in point one, to lure the mate into the cave after the exhausting task of molting her hard shell has taken place.
Communication is important as the window of time for procreation is slim.
3. They Make Music
Well, not really.
What they can sometimes do is rub their antennas together at a speed from which a squeaky noise will come.
Scientists still have no idea why they do this or what purpose it serves.
They only know that the sound can be heard from quite a distance.
Maybe this is done when the urinary glands are not working or the lobster… well… doesn’t have to go?
We may never know.
We only know that this is a form of communication, and we think it may be used as a form of predator repellent.
The noise is apparently not pleasant.
4. Do They Scream?
No, they don’t scream.
We wanted to add this one as a non-form of communication due to the myth that’s been hyped for decades.
The reason people think that lobsters scream is due to the high-pitched sound that comes from them when they are boiled and cooked.
It gives the impression that they are screaming, and frankly, if you’ve ever experienced it, it sounds that way, yes, but It’s simply not true.
The sound you hear upon boiling is air.
Not from lungs because they don’t have them, and not from any other organ, but from the tiny natural holes that are found in their hard shells.
Why do we boil them alive?
First, let’s just clear up the next logical question.
People want to know why we cook them the way we do.
Do they feel it?
No, they don’t feel it, and they don’t scream in agony.
We cook them straight away for health reasons.
When a lobster is already dead, you have a very slim window in which to cook them safely.
The food poisoning from shellfish is both deadly and agonizing.
If you boil a lobster straight out of the tank, alive, then it’s done quickly, and you know you aren’t serving anything questionable.
If you make a mistake and the lobster has begun to decompose, then even cooking it will not kill all the bacteria.
You don’t need but a pinhead-sized number of bacteria to cause severe stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and even death.
Bacteria, once in the system, multiply thousands of times in a warm body.
It’s just best to cook them quickly and 100% fresh.
There are other ways of accomplishing the same thing and even more quickly if you are concerned about the wellbeing of the lobster.
They now use electroshock to quickly do the job so that there is no suffering at all.
We don’t believe there is, but the quicker and more compassionate the kill, the better for the lobster.
5. Communicating Dominance
To understand this one, you must understand the simplicity of the lobster anatomy.
While pheromones will stave off a predator or call in a mate, there are plenty of times when they have to communicate dominance in both situations.
The claws are two sizes and serve two purposes.
The small claw captures and the large one crushes.
There are two different types of lobster, though.
One has those claws, and the other, called a spiny lobster, only has a pair of long antennae and a much harder shell.
In the case of the clawed lobster, they communicate aggression and make themselves appear larger by standing on their back feet and raising its claws.
If approached too closely or quickly, they will lunge and snap those claws in the direction of the threat.
They can be seen, on film with divers, to lunge at the camera and to keep the large claw out in front of their body in the open position.
This is typically all the communication a predator needs.
One interesting fact is that, in many places, like the shipwreck reefs, the lobster doesn’t face very many predators.
They fight over mates and food sources with other lobsters.
6. Back Paddle Boxing
There’s a dance you’ll see lobsters do for many reasons.
One reason is defense.
They have that crusher claw we mentioned in point five.
They typically travel backwards and do this by using their curly tails.
They use it as a paddle.
It keeps them perfectly balanced and able to face their enemy and keep fighting without risking their life by turning their back on it!
7. Big Claw Boomerang
Another way they can communicate and actually trick their predators in a situation that they can’t find any other way out of is to self-amputate and throw a claw.
This is not done on a daily basis as they will have to wait a few years to regenerate that claw, and they need it to capture and crush food.
Doing this puts them at a bit of a disadvantage for a while so it won’t be done often.
8. Cock Of The Walk
This is a super interesting one.
The male lobsters are called cocks and the females are chickens or hens.
“Cock of the walk” is a term used to describe the confident chicken.
In the case of the lobster, it works the same way.
According to Jordan Peterson in his lecture, Lobster Lessons, there’s a psychochemical phenomenon that happens in the lobster with serotonin.
That is the same chemical we have when we are either confident or depressed.
This is a way that the lobster sizes other lobsters up.
They fight a lot.
It’s a daily part of their survival.
When a lobster loses a fight, it will crunch down in posture, sort of curling under to protect its soft parts.
It’s an instinct and communicates to other lobsters a protective posture.
This is the “loser lobster”, at least at that time and at that fight.
It’s important to know, however, that every lobster that comes across this little guy will know by what his posture is communicating that he can be attacked.
This will continue until he finally wins a fight.
Since lobsters literally never stop growing, there is some big competition out there in the deep.
However, once a loser is not always a loser—it’s just a matter of time and a little more growing!
Now, the lobster that wins a fight stretches its body out and communicates to the other lobsters that it won a fight and is very likely to continue winning.
He gets bullied and approached less.
He gets to mate in a more protected manner.
He can protect his mate while she molts her shell and readies herself for mating.
The other competitors are less likely to come after them and disturb the process.
The weaker lobster that lost the fight will, unfortunately, face more fights.
This will hinder his ability to win a mate and to protect his mate.
This is probably the most important communication the lobster conveys.
It’s about biological continuity and survival of the fittest.
The species live a long, long, time.
They die of exhaustion from molting as they get older, but don’t really die of old age.
They can live to 100 or more in some cases, but at least 40 to 50 years.
They regenerate into a brand-new lobster after the molting period.
This is why they must communicate dominance.
The croucher doesn’t get to pass his genes on more than the winner.
That’s just nature, and it’s what keeps the lobster family going.
9. They Can Read Communication
The lobster only has a few small ways to communicate and not much of a brain to do so with.
There’s urinating pheromones, lunging in combat, and lastly, presenting their status with body language.
There are parts of the lobster body that are used to communicate information back to itself from its environment.
The antennae and feet are two such communicators.
One serves as both outward and inward communication and the other serves as a sense of smell.
The antenna communicates to a predator, along with the claws, that the lobster knows it’s a possible threat, and they are sizing it up.
It can tell a myriad of things just by a few pats and strokes of the antennae, such as the size of the prey.
Even though they can see with their eyes, though not very well, the depth perception is aided by those really long antennae.
They can tell just how far away the predator is in terms of reach and measure that quickly against the time it may take to snap this thing before it eats them.
They’re made to be quick on their feet both on the seafloor and swimming toward prey, but the feet are used to do more than that.
These beautiful creatures can smell food with their feet.
10. Tiny Hairs, Temperature, And Constant Communication
They will use their feet and the tiny hairs that stick out from their shells to feel temperature and communicate changes that will affect them in their environment.
The lobster lives long and is a strongly built creature and also quite sensitive and delicate.
They are beautiful divers and glide in the water like little buoyant angels.
They sometimes have to traverse 100 miles to find the perfect place to breed.
They have to use a very sophisticated system of communication using every part of their bodies to feel and smell.
They don’t smell in the same way we know it, but it’s more like taste.
After all, they need to eat on the road, right?
Let’s recap the life of the lobster and you’ll see how much work this creature has to do, all while using constant communication.
First, prior to being born as a lobster, Dad and Mom have to find the best breeding ground and use their senses to communicate back any harmful temperature changes.
That can be nearly 200 miles or more away from where they are.
Once they get there, they have to get through the lobster mating fight and hope they’re the winner after all that travel.
Then, the male must wait a few days until Mom sheds her shell.
They mate, and then Mom carries the babies for some time on her abdomen.
Dad could stay with her for two weeks before he moves on.
This ensures insemination.
The whole ordeal is exhausting and communication through the senses is happening constantly.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the lobster is one of the best communicators on the planet.
The crustacean is a creature on a mission, and they were made for it.
They have amazing longevity and a definitive system of hierarchy and reproduction, and they are masters at it.
They keep their population strong because they are in constant communication with their environment with a special concentration on fighting and mating.
Their young are delicate yet resilient, and most little lobsters make it.
From sea to table, your lobster fought the good fight.