Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Lobsters saved from boiling pot

Orange and blue lobsters
The orange and blue lobsters were caught off the coast of Fife

Two of Scotland's most unusually coloured lobsters have become a huge visitor attraction.

The colourful crustaceans, one a vivid orange and the other electric blue, would normally have ended up on a dinner plate in an upmarket restaurant.

But their bizarre colours have saved them from the boiling pot because the fishermen who caught them off the coast of Fife thought they were so unusual.

The lobsters now share a rock pool at Deep Sea World in North Queensferry.

Rebecca Ziegler, marketing manager for the aquarium, which bills itself as 'Scotland's Shark Capital', said the creatures were drawing huge crowds at their rock pool presentations.

I was so surprised I pulled up alongside another fishing boat to show them what I had caught
Keith McKay
Buckhaven fisherman

She said: "We welcome these two extraordinarily coloured lobsters. The pair are proving to be a big draw.

"Normally the combination of red and blue pigments in the shell of a live lobster creates a dark, mottled camouflage pattern that blends in with the ocean floor."

Blue lobsters are caused by a genetic defect. Rather than containing the pigments that combine to make the normal olive green and brown colour, the shell contains only a blue pigment.

Genetic defects also cause other strange colourings such as light orange, and patterns such as yellow spots. Some even come in two colours, having half of their shell one colour and the other half a totally different colour.

Buckhaven fisherman Keith McKay, 47, who caught the blue lobster just a quarter of a mile off the Fife coast said he had occasionally seen dark blue lobsters since he started laying creels with his father as an 11-year-old boy.

Blue lobster
The unusual colour saved the lobsters from the boiling pot

But he added: 'I've never seen anything like this one in my life. I was surprised at how pale a blue it was.

"It was really brightly-coloured. I would call it electric blue. I was so surprised I pulled up alongside another fishing boat to show them what I had caught."

A lobster's shell is composed of three pigments: red, blue, and yellow.

Individual crustaceans become unusually coloured when one or more of these pigments are missing at birth.

In the wild brightly coloured shells make lobsters a target for other predators.

Chemical change in the lobsters' shells changes the orbits of the electrons in the molecules, causing them to absorb red light and therefore appear blue.

Except for albinos, all lobsters turn red when they are cooked.

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