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How Do Lobsters Communicate? (Yes, They Pee at Each Other)

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

sea lobster in sand

Communication is key to any species’ success and survival. From humans to birds, communication allows the individuals to work together, express information, or even warn each other to back off. Without communication, virtually no species would survive.

To us, communication primarily involves talking, writing, and using language. However, not all animals have vocal cords to express communication vocally, let alone the mental capacity to create formal language. Lobsters are one such example of animals that communicate, though not through vocal communication.

Although lobsters can’t talk like us, they still have a developed system of communication that allows the pod to create a strict social hierarchy, express mating times, and more. How do lobsters communicate, though? As gross as it may sound, lobsters essentially squirt pee at one another to communicate.

Read on to learn more.

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How Lobsters Communicate

Lobsters squirt pee at one another to communicate. Is that really it? Although this may sound like a primitive form of communication, it actually is very nuanced and entails a long evolutionary history to be possible. To understand how pee works as a mode for communication, we have to take a close look into the lobster’s anatomy.

lobster underwater
Image Credit: Gilmanshin, Shutterstock

How Communication Works

Unlike people, lobsters urinate from their faces. In fact, the lobster’s bladder is located underneath the brain. The nozzles from which their urine is projected are located at the base of the lobster’s antennae, right around their eyes. As a result, lobsters can easily direct their urine in the direction of the lobster they are trying to communicate with.

You might be wondering how pee can convey important communicative information. Well, whenever the pee is released, important pheromones are released in the urine stream as well. It is actually the pheromones that contain the information the lobsters want to communicate to one another.

lobsters in aquarium
Image Credit: Chere, Shutterstock

About Pheromones

Pheromones are found in a variety of species, including human beings. Simply put, pheromones are like coded chemical messages that can communicate biological states with one another. For example, pheromones can express relaxation, stress, and even arousal in human beings.

Although different from human pheromones, lobster pheromones generally work in the same way. They are coded chemical messages that tell other lobsters of the sender’s biological state. The pheromones are simply released with the pee so the lobster can communicate with their crustacean brethren.

What Do Lobsters Communicate with Their Pee?

Although lobsters don’t need to communicate dinner plans or their thoughts on the most recent movie, lobsters actually have quite a bit they need to communicate. Many people are shocked to find out that lobsters have a very intense social order that must be maintained for lobster survival.

Hierarchy within a lobster pod is determined by fighting. Whenever the hierarchy is established within the pod, fighting will become much less frequent. In order to tell other lobsters about the hierarchical standing, the lobster will release pee in the other’s direction. Typically, the less established lobster will simply step down if faced with a lobster of higher standing.

Being able to communicate one’s place in the hierarchy is essential for lobsters. That’s because only the most dominant males will mate. The dominant lobsters will send their urine to the females, and the female lobsters will decide if they will mate based on the smell of the urine. The hierarchy pheromones also determine territory, food, and other critical information.

sea lobster
Image Credit: Piqsels

What Happens If Lobsters Can’t Communicate With One Another?

Don’t you hate whenever your communication is interrupted? Such as when you need to send an important text message, but the message just won’t go through. Well, lobsters are the same way, and the results of failed messages are even more damaging to lobsters. If lobsters cannot communicate with one another, the very fabric of their pod can unravel.

Without communication, lobsters are unable to express their place in the hierarchy, which can result in more fighting and aggression between males. More so, they cannot express their pheromones for mating purposes.

lobsters in aquarium
Image Credit: Piqsels

Times of Failed Communication

Even though urinating may seem like a really simple mode of communication, there are times whenever lobsters can’t communicate properly.

For example, lobsters can find themselves needing to communicate when they don’t need to go to the bathroom, and they aren’t able to release the pheromones needed for communication as a result. Sometimes, the nozzles can also get damaged, which makes it impossible for the lobsters to release their pheromones.

More so, lobsters can also have issues with their olfactory pathway. This is the pathway that allows the lobster to receive and interpret the information that is communicated through their pee. If this pathway doesn’t work, it is essentially like sending a text message to the wrong number. The message never gets delivered.

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Final Thoughts

Lobsters communicate like us, though their mode for communication is wildly different. While we would be deeply insulted and downright disgusted if someone peed in our direction, lobsters communicate by sending their urine to one another.

Lobsters communicate a wide array of information via their pee, such as their place in the social hierarchy and if they are ready to mate. If lobsters cannot communicate properly, the pod sees a whole lot of hardships.

Remember, even though it is a bit gross that lobsters have to communicate through their pee, it is really their pheromones sending the message. Even we as humans express our biological states through our pheromones, we just aren’t as aware of it as the lobsters. So, think twice before being disgusted by lobsters’ mode of communication!


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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