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Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 14:00 UK
The common lobster's coastline

By Jim Cokill
Director, Durham Wildlife Trust

Barney, the one metre long lobster at the London Aquarium in central London Tuesday August 28 2001
Giant lobsters can be found around the UK coastline - this one was 1m long

With another article on the County Durham and Wearside countryside, Jim Cokill turns his attention to the coastline and something that we are more used to seeing in the fishmonger's - the common lobster.

All along the rocky sections of the Durham Heritage Coast, the common lobster (Homarus gammarus) can be found in nooks and crannies below the water line.

Most people have seen a common lobster, but usually only at the local fishmonger or supermarket fish counter, which isn't the best way to see the largest crustacean found in the UK.

Like all wildlife, the common lobster is best seen in its native environment - something that is obviously more easily said than done.

But, if you do ever get the chance to scuba dive on the British coast, the common lobster is one of the things you are likely to encounter.

The lobster is a strikingly colourful animal under water, with a deep violet blue body and long, red antennae.

Lobster pots
Lobster pots are still the favoured way to catch the Homarus gammarus

Monsters of the deep

The lobster has 10 legs, as do many other marine crustaceans such as shrimps, and is therefore known as a decapod.

The lobster's body is covered with a hard exterior shell known as an exoskeleton.

This skin needs to be regularly shed to allow the animal to grow.

The size of lobsters caught in lobster pots is generally between 25cm and 40cm long (not including claws and tail) and they usually weigh between 1kg and 2.5kg - but there are records of real monsters.

A 1.26m-long specimen weighing more than 9kg was reported as being discovered off Cornwall in 1931 and a 6.57kg animal was caught off Pembrokeshire in 1967.

Animals of this size are probably between 50 and 100 years old.

Can anyone claim a record for the Durham coast? If you think you can - then get in touch with the Durham Wildlife Trust through their website here.

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