[ASC-media] Media Release - Scientists to put red back into lobsters
w.ellery at aims.gov.au
Wed Oct 29 09:54:44 EST 2003
MEDIA RELEASE October 29, 2003
Scientists to put red back into lobsters
Researchers helping lobsters to look their red best for market may
have unravelled a natural phenomenon unique to the western rock
The western rock lobster is the only known lobster to undergo a
once-in-a-lifetime colour change called the 'white' phase which
occurs during their migration to breeding grounds offshore.
Marine Science PhD Student Nick Wade is conducting a collaborative
research project between AIMS and the University of Queensland
endeavouring to understand the colour transformation and develop a
method to enhance the pigment prior to market.
'White' lobsters are the predominant catch during the early months
of the fishery but they fetch significantly lower prices than 'reds'
on the international market. The industry claims it costs them
dearly, to the tune of millions of dollars annually.
So far Mr Wade has discovered the protein responsible for shell
colour formation and found it to be significantly less abundant in
'white' than in 'reds'.
The next step is to develop a food supplement to reverse the colour
loss and meet the demand for a blushing shell.
The Western Rock Lobster fishery is Australia's most valuable single
species fishery generating $300 million annually.
This research may also be useful in the future for shell colour
enhancement of farmed lobsters or any crustacean in need of cosmetic
dressing up for market.
Nick Wade's evidence challenges the long held theory that the 'white'
phase is brought about by a change of diet and or response to the
background colour of their natural environment.
He said it is more likely to be genetically based, an inbuilt
mechanism that triggers the colour change during this one moult cycle
preparing the animal for migration.
'This is fundamental knowledge that contributes to a better
understanding, management, and conservation of the species,' Mr Wade
Both Nick Wade and his jetsetting lobsters are currently in
Townsville, all the way from their base in Perth, continuing their
research into crustacean shell colour, and helping lobsters live up
to their red reputation.
Nick Wade, PhD Student: (07) 4753 4124, 0402 273 851 after Oct 31,
email: nwade at zen.uq,edu.au
Communication and Media Liaison
Australian Institute of Marine Science
PMB No 3
Townsville Qld 4810
Ph +61 7 4753 4409
Fax +61 7 4771 6138
Mobile: 0418 729 265
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