It happens every 12-15 months but it’s extremely rare for anyone to capture it on video. However at The Wharf Aquarium, Merimbula curator, Michael McMaster was on hand when a Slipper lobster got rid of its old shell.
Michael said: “Lobsters and crays come out of their shells every 12-15 months but usually it’s done in darkness because they are extremely vulnerable because their new shell is soft. Actually getting video footage is rare and very unusual,” he said.
“I knew it was coming up to moulting time and I was in the middle of a feeding tour, I looked in the tank and saw it starting to happen so I quickly passed the feeding tour to someone else while I grabbed the video,” Michael said.
“It’s a very slow and painful process. They suck water in and slowly break open the shell before gradually coming out. For a couple of weeks before moulting they shut down and start to absorb all the minerals from the old shell. They’re stored in something like a gall stone and then dissolved and put back into the new shell,” Michael explained.
“Once out of the old hard shell, the lobsters are very vulnerable to prey but it is the only way they can grow while the new shell is soft,” Michael said.