A young lobster is checked out on Friendship long Island, Maine. Scientists have now identified where the development rings space to determine the period of a lobster. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine – because that the first time, researchers have established how to identify the period of a lobster — by count its rings, like a tree.

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Nobody knows exactly how old lobsters deserve to live come be; some human being estimate castle live to much more than 100.

But understanding — quite than just guessing — their age and also that of various other shellfish could assist scientists better understand the population and assist regulators that the rewarding industry, said Raouf Kilada, a research study associate at the college of new Brunswick who was the lead writer of a scientific document documenting the process.

Before now, scientists deduced a lobster"s period judging through size and also other variables. But it"s now known that lobsters and also other crustaceans, such as crabs and also shrimp, grow one ring every year in hidden-away inner spots, Kilada said.

"Having the age information for any type of commercial varieties will absolutely improve the share assessment and also ensure sustainability," he said after presenting his findings Thursday in ~ a clinical conference in Portland.

Scientists currently could tell a fish"s period by count the expansion rings discovered in a bony component of its inner ear, a shark"s period from the ring in the vertebrae and a scallop or clam"s period from the rings of its shell.

But crustaceans posed a problem due to the fact that of the apparent absence of any kind of permanent expansion structures. That was thought that when lobsters and other crustaceans molt, they burned all calcified body components that might record yearly growth bands.

For their research, Kilada and also five other Canadian researcher took a closer look in ~ lobsters, snow crabs, northern shrimp and also sculptured shrimp.

They found that development rings, in fact, could be discovered in the eyestalk — a stalk connected to the body through an eyeball on the finish — of lobsters, crabs and shrimp. In lobsters and crabs, the rings were likewise found in the so-called "gastric mills," parts of the stomach with three teeth-like structures supplied to grind up food.

To discover the growth bands, the researchers dissected the eyestalks and the gastric mills, cut out sections and viewed castle under microscopes.

Lobsters don"t lose reproductive capability or organ functions or exhibit indicators of aging as they gain older, however nobody knows for sure exactly how old they deserve to live come be.

"We"ve believed lobsters could live to 100 year old, and this new aging technique will be a way to document that," said Bob Bayer, executive director that the college of Maine"s Lobster Institute.

The document was released in this month"s Canadian newspaper of Fisheries and also Aquatic Sciences, a well-regarded peer-reviewed scientific journal based in Ottawa, Ontario, that has been published since 1901. Kilada"s was one of an ext than 50 clinical presentations at the conference, attended by an ext than 100 lobster researchers from the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Bayer agreed that this is the very first time scientists have a direct technique to place an age on crustaceans.

"Right currently we"re just guessing at their age," the said.

Kilada stated he observed lobster specimens the were 16 or 17 year old throughout his research. He approximates that there are lobsters 60 or 70 years old living in the wild.

Susan Waddy, a lobster researcher v Canada"s department of Fisheries and Oceans, stated she has kept lobsters in her laboratory that are more than 30 years old. She doubt they live to it is in 40 or 50.

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"We understand they don"t live forever," she said.


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