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How Do Lobsters Communicate? Vet-Approved Info

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By Lindsey Stanton

sea lobster in sand

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Communication is vital to any species’ success and survival. From humans to birds, communication allows 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 species 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? As unappealing as it may sound, lobsters essentially squirt urine at one another to communicate.

Read on to learn more.

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How Lobsters Communicate

Lobsters squirt urine 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 understand how liquid waste works as a mode of 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 antennae. Strangely enough, the lobster’s bladder is located underneath the brain. The nozzles where 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 urine can convey important communicative information. Well, whenever it’s 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 most species, including human beings. Simply put, pheromones are like coded chemical messages that can communicate biological states with another member of the same species. For example, pheromones can express relaxation, stress, and even arousal in human beings.

Although they differ 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 released with the urine so the lobster can communicate with their crustacean brethren.

What Do Lobsters Communicate with Their Urine?

Although lobsters don’t need to communicate dinner plans or their thoughts on the most recent movie, lobsters 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 inform other lobsters about the hierarchical standing, the lobster will release urine 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. A female that is able to mate will release pheromones via her urine indicating that she’s ready to do so at least twice a year (usually after a molt). This prompts the male lobsters in the vicinity to fight one another until one emerges as a victor. This process ensures that only the fittest males get to mate with the female.

sea lobster
Image Credit: photopig71, Pixabay

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 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 stability 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: premagraphic, Pixabay

Times of Failed Communication

Even though urinating may seem like a really simple mode of communication, there are times when lobsters can’t communicate properly. Injury to the urine releasing ‘nozzles’ at the base of the antennae can result in a lobster with impaired communication. Sometimes, the nozzles can also get damaged, which makes it impossible for the lobsters to release their pheromones. This is usually fatal, the inability to pass urine is detrimental to their long term well being.

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 urine. 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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Summary

Lobsters communicate like us, though their mode of communication is wildly different. While we would be deeply insulted and disgusted if someone urinated in our direction, lobsters depend on it for survival. Lobsters transmit information with their urine, 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 shocking that lobsters have to use bodily fluid to communicate, it is really their pheromones sending the message. Even as humans, we express biological states through our pheromones; we just aren’t as aware of it as the lobsters. So, think twice before judging the lobsters’ mode of communication!


Featured Image Credit: Jennifer42, Pixabay

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