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24th Oct 2023

Mystery surrounds rare albino lobster going through colour change

Simon Kelly

albino lobster mystery

He’s feeling blue.

A mystery involving the changing colour of a certain rare lobster caught off the Irish coast has been circulating around an aquarium in Co. Mayo.

The crustacean in question goes by the name of Charlie, and is a very rare example of an albino lobster, meaning he was completely white in colour when caught.

However, since his capture in 2017 and subsequent rehoming into the Achill Experience aquarium, he’s started to turn blue.

Caught in 2017 off the coast of Achill by a fisherman named Charlie O’Malley, whom he was named after, Charlie began changing colour every time he moulted (the process of lobsters shedding their shell).

“Albino lobsters only live between three to five years because they can easily be seen by predators at sea,” Kevin Garvin, an aquarist at the Achill Experience, told the Irish Independent.

“Charlie was already an adult when he was caught, so we estimate he could be about 14 years old.

“Every time he moults in order to grow, which is every 12 to 14 months, we see the blue colour gradually getting stronger.”

Experts baffled by rare lobster’s colour change

The chances of a lobsters being albino are about one in a million, which makes Charlie a very rare example.

Blue lobsters are even rarer, about one in every two million, which has left aquarium staff even more baffled by Charlie’s changing appearance.

“We have a few theories in that it could be his age that is causing the blue tint, or his diet, which is and has always been fish. But again, these are just theories, as we don’t know for sure,” said Mr Garvin.

According to the Achill Experience website, the explanation to why lobsters turn different colours is as follows:

“Lobsters eat a carotenoid pigment in their plant food called astaxanthin. This pigment is stored in a lobster’s skin underneath its hard outer shell. Over time, the pigment begins to migrate into the shell, where different shell proteins alter the pigment to store it, changing its colour to a dark blue.

“Due to genetic disorders some lobsters lack the ability to allow the proteins to change the pigment colour hence some are white, some are orange, and some can also be light blue.”

Despite Charlie’s changing colours, all other signs point to him being a healthy and happy lobster.

The Achill experience is also home to an even rarer lobster named Rusty, who is orange in colour and was caught within two weeks of Charlie. The chances of a lobster being orange is around 30 million to one.

Header image credit: RTÉ 

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