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In this intimate portrait of an island lobstering community and aneccentric band of renegade biologists, journalist Trevor Corson escorts the reader onto the slippery decks of fishing boats, through danger-filled scuba dives, and deep into the churning currents of the Gulf of Maine to learn about the secret undersea lives of lobsters. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 In this intimate portrait of an island lobstering community and aneccentric band of renegade biologists, journalist Trevor Corson escorts the reader onto the slippery decks of fishing boats, through danger-filled scuba dives, and deep into the churning currents of the Gulf of Maine to learn about the secret undersea lives of lobsters. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.


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In this intimate portrait of an island lobstering community and aneccentric band of renegade biologists, journalist Trevor Corson escorts the reader onto the slippery decks of fishing boats, through danger-filled scuba dives, and deep into the churning currents of the Gulf of Maine to learn about the secret undersea lives of lobsters. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 In this intimate portrait of an island lobstering community and aneccentric band of renegade biologists, journalist Trevor Corson escorts the reader onto the slippery decks of fishing boats, through danger-filled scuba dives, and deep into the churning currents of the Gulf of Maine to learn about the secret undersea lives of lobsters. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

30 review for The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-masx

    Lobsters have the most amazing sex lives. The biggest lobsters fight brutally to gain dominance and have their choice of females - the females admire muscles in their men. However, there's always the sly, sleek, attractive one, jack-the-lad whose never going to be big enough to enter the sex wars. So while the alpha males are going at it, he slips down into the ladies' homes, they live in holes in the sand, and gets it on and is home safe before the big, muscly males have even recovered from the Lobsters have the most amazing sex lives. The biggest lobsters fight brutally to gain dominance and have their choice of females - the females admire muscles in their men. However, there's always the sly, sleek, attractive one, jack-the-lad whose never going to be big enough to enter the sex wars. So while the alpha males are going at it, he slips down into the ladies' homes, they live in holes in the sand, and gets it on and is home safe before the big, muscly males have even recovered from their latest fight. Who knew? The book is written from three perspectives: the fishing business, marine scientists and the lobsters' own extremely complicated and interesting lives. Its as entertaining as it is interesting and if I did eat lobster, I never would again. One of the reason my ex-husband liked me was because when he caught a lobster, especially a weird local one called the slipper lobster which is supposed to be the best and sweetest variety, he would come by me to cook it and eat the whole thing. If he took it home his mother and sisters would all want a share, he said. The reason I didn't like lobster, which he knew, was I had a job sailing and the captain had insisted I come out with him to the most expensive restaurant on the island at that time. Long, white tablecloths etc. The captain insisted I have the most expensive item on the menu, lobster, despite my protests. Under the table sat a cat. I discreetly fed the whole lobster bit by bit to the cat who stayed under the table under the chocolate cheesecake dessert came (I wasn't sharing that). He never knew, but I told my ex who ever afterwards cooked his smelly lobsters by me and never had to share them with his sisters again. Read 2011, totally rewritten June 30th 2019 in view of memories that returned when tonight's date insisted I have lobster at the island's most expensive yada yada, but I had snapper instead.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    i feel compelled to disclose that lobsters are, in fact, my favorite sea-dwelling creature and definitely in my top five creatures of all time (in no particular order, lobsters, otter, triceratops, my cat oscar, and unicorns). however, that does not mean that my review of this book should be disregarded. the writing is engaging, and the subject matter contains many a good cocktail party tidbit (the bit about "superlobsters" being particularly interesting). and lobstermen are just pretty badass du i feel compelled to disclose that lobsters are, in fact, my favorite sea-dwelling creature and definitely in my top five creatures of all time (in no particular order, lobsters, otter, triceratops, my cat oscar, and unicorns). however, that does not mean that my review of this book should be disregarded. the writing is engaging, and the subject matter contains many a good cocktail party tidbit (the bit about "superlobsters" being particularly interesting). and lobstermen are just pretty badass dudes.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Lobsters are one of my favorite animals, but I had no idea that there was an entire book all about them. A lot of people only see these aquatic animals as food, but The Secret Life of Lobsters sheds some light on the nature of lobsters and what makes them a lot more interesting than people realize. However, it's not just a book about lobsters. It's also a book about a group of marine biologists who study them, and the methods they use while at sea to research them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Hmm, not especially recommended, unless you are especially obsessed with lobsters. The casual reader of microhistories might not enjoy. I did learn some interesting things (like the fascinating role pheromones play in lobster mating—sounds dry but it was actually the most interesting part of the book! Or the fact that lobsters have open circulatory systems, meaning that their blood flows through body cavities rather than inside veins. Or the fact that what we call a lobster “tail” is really thei Hmm, not especially recommended, unless you are especially obsessed with lobsters. The casual reader of microhistories might not enjoy. I did learn some interesting things (like the fascinating role pheromones play in lobster mating—sounds dry but it was actually the most interesting part of the book! Or the fact that lobsters have open circulatory systems, meaning that their blood flows through body cavities rather than inside veins. Or the fact that what we call a lobster “tail” is really their abdomen; their anus is at the bottom of it). And the author cleverly (and often punnily) weaves the lives of the individual lobstermen on Little Cranberry Island and the lives of the lobsters themselves. But the book was definitely repetitive and drawn out at times. It’s just not the most captivating microhistory I’ve ever read. Also, the author is certainly quite prejudiced towards the lobstermen, not the lobster scientists (except for the scientists who agree with the lobstermen) or the animal rights’ advocates—probably because he grew up spending summers on Little Cranberry and interacting with the lobstermen. Let's see, what else? Well, this description of molting the author gives is the most unnerving thing I’ve read in a while: The membrane that lines its old shell bursts and the animal falls over on its side, helpless and immobilized. The lobster’s back detaches and the animal pulls its antennae, mouthparts, legs, and claws out of their former coverings . . . Because a lobster is an invertebrate, every anatomic feature that is rigid is part of the exoskeleton, including the teeth inside the stomach that grind food. The lobster must rip out the lining of its throat, stomach, and anus before it is free of the old shell. Some die trying. Wow, okay. Never going to unsee that. There’s some weird, intensely unethical experiments going on in this book, too. Diane Cowan seems especially sadistic. For someone who “loves” lobsters and is called the “Jane Goodall” of lobsters, she sure loves doing horrific things to lobsters. Like cutting off their scent glands so that they will be raped and brutally murdered by other lobsters (the author’s words, not mine), or saying things to baby lobsters as she gently puts them down like “aw, you’re so cute, I hope you end up on my dinner plate someday.” Hi, Hannibal Lector, I see you’ve emerged from your nap. She’s not the only one who could inspire creepypasta literature. Take this: Jack Merill helped his daughter with a science project at school. While her classmates watched, she sprinkled a few drops of a household pesticide over a tank containing a lobster. Within seconds the animal convulsed and was dead. I’m sorry, that’s the science project you encourage your CHILD to do? That’s so damn twisted, man.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    I read this in my continuing attempt to find my inner lobster (my Umwelt), which is necessary for someone who "should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas." Plenty of warm, buttery tidbits here about lobster behavior, serving as a metaphor perhaps for the human drama of lobstermen versus the government. The term 'pissing contest' has taken on new meaning. By coincidence, as I was reading this, I visited one of those new Uber-supermarkets; you know, a place I read this in my continuing attempt to find my inner lobster (my Umwelt), which is necessary for someone who "should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas." Plenty of warm, buttery tidbits here about lobster behavior, serving as a metaphor perhaps for the human drama of lobstermen versus the government. The term 'pissing contest' has taken on new meaning. By coincidence, as I was reading this, I visited one of those new Uber-supermarkets; you know, a place where you can listen to live music, get your car's oil changed and find organic persimmons out of season. They had, of course, a lobster tank with a few dozen of what our author calls 'our favorite crustaceans' crawling over each other. I wanted to shout out loud, "No. Stop this. They don't like that. That's not how they live." This book helped me to see lobsters. I'm happy to eat them though.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Bird

    What a great book about the Maine lobster fishing industry told through one of their own. The author tells a story of the relationship between the fishermen and the scientists, many of whom develop great relationships with a common goal of ensuring the long-term sustainability of lobster! I learned so much about the biology of lobsters as well! Overall, it was a fun and also educational read. This might be my favorite book :)

  7. 4 out of 5

    William Blair

    I love lobster. I thought they were getting rare (as in too many being caught). The government thought so too, so they limited the haul. Then the lobstermen (who had a darn good reason to know more about lobster behavior than any government policy wonk) figured out that was not so. In the end, this is mainly a story about how the industry effectively won the right to regulate its catch itself, with a side does of "it's not really necessary." Those lobsters are having a LOT of sex. But how lobste I love lobster. I thought they were getting rare (as in too many being caught). The government thought so too, so they limited the haul. Then the lobstermen (who had a darn good reason to know more about lobster behavior than any government policy wonk) figured out that was not so. In the end, this is mainly a story about how the industry effectively won the right to regulate its catch itself, with a side does of "it's not really necessary." Those lobsters are having a LOT of sex. But how lobsters have sex, how they choose their mates, and what happens to the little baby lobsterettes after they hatch is the best part of the story ... essentially a detective story. Absolutely fascinating! Eat more lobster! It helps the lobstermen!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Niamh Ryan

    Having had the European lobster as the focal point of my masters research and thesis, I was intrigued as to how this book would play out. It combines science with local fishery knowledge to tell the tale of the American lobster fishery in Maine. The science is not over bearing and the story behind the politics of the science is combined well with the backstory of the local fishers. Nice to have a book out there that shows things from the fishermen's perspective too. This is up there with some of Having had the European lobster as the focal point of my masters research and thesis, I was intrigued as to how this book would play out. It combines science with local fishery knowledge to tell the tale of the American lobster fishery in Maine. The science is not over bearing and the story behind the politics of the science is combined well with the backstory of the local fishers. Nice to have a book out there that shows things from the fishermen's perspective too. This is up there with some of my favourite books 10/10

  9. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    A fascinating and informative book about lobsters and about the evolution of man's understanding of these creatures over a hundred years as well as the various fights over how best to conserve them for the future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tippy Jackson

    The life of lobsters. Was there any chance this wouldn't be a good book? Well, yes I suppose there was, but fortunately it was. There were lots of little interesting tidbits about lobsters, but the book was mostly about a small lobstering community and scientists working together to learn about these awesome animals and to maintain their sustainability. Their new found knowledge can even be used to guesstimate how favorable a lobster season may or may not be. I was a little concerned with the po The life of lobsters. Was there any chance this wouldn't be a good book? Well, yes I suppose there was, but fortunately it was. There were lots of little interesting tidbits about lobsters, but the book was mostly about a small lobstering community and scientists working together to learn about these awesome animals and to maintain their sustainability. Their new found knowledge can even be used to guesstimate how favorable a lobster season may or may not be. I was a little concerned with the portrayal of government scientists as ignorant, useless, dismissive and arrogant. Not that there aren't many a committee of scientists with these qualities (why I left research science as a career), but the only scientist who really cared or knew anything was a friend of the lobstering community (no conflict there). The government scientists just wouldn't listen and claimed that the lobster was overfished when it wasn't. My concern is that people will take this to mean that whenever a scientist says something is overfished it's not true, or they simply don't know what they are talking about or they are being alarmist, or *gasp* environmentalist. In this case they were basing their suggestions on available data, while data by the friend-of-lobster-community scientist was still being collected. They made assumptions based on the data they had that were reasonable. But scientists are always collecting more data and reorganizing their suggestions and conclusions accordingly. Friend-of lobster-community scientist managed to conduct major research and even got serious funding (he was paying for submersibles!) for his research testing a hypothesis that was against the main stream idea. I point this out because far too often, people will point to a situation like this and say that science doesn't work. (In Michael Crichton's book "State of Fear," that bastard was saying that scientists have biased opinions because they only get funding if they support the main stream ideas. This is simply NOT TRUE. And in fact if a scientist can disprove a main stream idea, he or she will make quite a name for themselves and it would significantly boost their career.) But science does not (or should not) pretend to be the ultimate truth, just a useful tool that we can use to enhance our everyday lives. And as such, it is constantly questioned and new data is constantly being gathered and analyzed. The scientists in this case simply made a decision based on available data. What else could they do? Okay, end of rant. I apologize. Back to the book...Because the author did mention other seriously overfished industries, such as cod, he didn't completely diminish the very real threat of overfishing. In fact, he mentioned that overfishing of larger predatory fish may be why there was such a boom of lobsters. So I'm glad he didn't extrapolate from this one situation and dismiss all overfishing claims. The book is full of breathtaking descriptions of ocean habitats and is really well written. In one particularly amusing act of revenge, a dominant lobster that had been bullying the other lobsters in the tank molted. Of course, without his hard shell for protection, he was very vulnerable and the other lobsters took advantage of the situation. When the researchers came back, all they could find were remnants of body parts scattered throughout the tank, the remaining lobsters back in their shelters as if nothing had happened.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim Amos

    Charming and fascinating in-depth juxtaposition of the biology and behavior of lobsters with the true-grit lives of the Maine lobstermen. Reading this gives me a greater appreciation for the Lobster which is a surprisingly evolved organism, but it also gives me greater respect for the hardworking fishermen and appreciation of their efforts to carefully conserve what they farm. Also makes me want to go back to Bar Harbor soon and eat some more of those delicious claws.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rob Neely

    This is a great book that weaves in personal lives of lobstermen and their families, scientists with a passion for learning about these creatures, and the lobsters themselves. These are pretty fascinating creatures, with oddball mating habits, an acute sense of smell, and while the book doesn't prove this - they're pretty damn tasty with a dish of butter. Ultimately the book is about what causes the ebb and flow of lobster takes season to season, and the lobstermen vs. desk scientist debate over This is a great book that weaves in personal lives of lobstermen and their families, scientists with a passion for learning about these creatures, and the lobsters themselves. These are pretty fascinating creatures, with oddball mating habits, an acute sense of smell, and while the book doesn't prove this - they're pretty damn tasty with a dish of butter. Ultimately the book is about what causes the ebb and flow of lobster takes season to season, and the lobstermen vs. desk scientist debate over how to best sustain the annual harvests. Toward the end it is finally hinted at (not overfishing) and that in fact techniques lobstermen had invented themselves such as V-notching were probably most effective. But I still feel after reading the book that I can't quite explain to someone else what causes it - it was alot of theories but no solid conclusion that tied a nice bow around it. i.e. is it the currents? Water temp? Increase in min size? Answer - all of the above, but I guess after reading the book on and off - I would've liked to have a crisper summary if one existed. Maybe it's because I read it in 20 minute chunks over the course of a month I missed the big conclusion. Anyway, if you think lobsters are boring - you're wrong. And if after reading this book you think you might have reservations about the cruelty of sticking a lobster in a boiling pot of water next time you're at a Maine lobsterfeed - they address that too in the epilogue. (Hint: even the scientists who study them passionately still enjoy a good red lobster at the end of the day).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I picked up this book on a whim, as it was sitting on the shelf at the public library next to the one I had actually come for (The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating - must be the literary invertebrate section). I'm so glad I did. This book served to further prove my favorite genre these days is narrative science writing. Corson writes about the American Lobster from every possible angle: its biology, its evolution, its habitat, its mating habits, the lives of those who study it and who fish for it, l I picked up this book on a whim, as it was sitting on the shelf at the public library next to the one I had actually come for (The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating - must be the literary invertebrate section). I'm so glad I did. This book served to further prove my favorite genre these days is narrative science writing. Corson writes about the American Lobster from every possible angle: its biology, its evolution, its habitat, its mating habits, the lives of those who study it and who fish for it, lobstering policy, sustainability, and more - and deftly weaves these diverse themes into a perfectly unified, deeply compelling whole. The book has a wry sense of humor to it along with a thorough respect for lobstermen and a keen interest in every aspect of this crustacean. I found myself excitedly rattling off facts about lobsters to my boyfriend as we rode the subway into Manhattan, after he innocently asked what I was reading. And I can't even eat lobsters! (Shellfish allergy.) Sure, my enthusiasm for the topic may have partly stemmed from having recently discussed sustainable fishery management in class, but that is only one small part of this story. With its thoughtful discussion of the people for whom lobsters are a livelihood, this is as much a human narrative and one of lobsters, and one which will pull you insatiably in. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mer

    I've been tossing books aside partially read all year so I'm amazed. This book kept my interest the entire time. No skipping over pages, no frustration at getting lost, but I will say there were sections around the science and the geography where my eyes glazed over for a bit. The story moves back and forth between the scientists and their lobsters, and the lives of the lobstermen and women. I really enjoyed how each chapter title related to the stories for each. The book ends in 2000; I'd be curi I've been tossing books aside partially read all year so I'm amazed. This book kept my interest the entire time. No skipping over pages, no frustration at getting lost, but I will say there were sections around the science and the geography where my eyes glazed over for a bit. The story moves back and forth between the scientists and their lobsters, and the lives of the lobstermen and women. I really enjoyed how each chapter title related to the stories for each. The book ends in 2000; I'd be curious if there's an update on the science and/or the folks on Little Cranberry Island since. If you enjoyed this you'll probably enjoy The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. Another subject I thought I'd never completely read but found fascinating and full of info I didn't know.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    If you've ever wondered where baby lobsters come from, this book explains it -- in great detail. The overall theme of the book is understanding the ecology of lobsters, and the debate between lobster scientists and lobstermen about how many lobsters to catch. The book describes the extraordinarily successful steps lobstermen have been taking to preserve and expand the lobster population. This book reminded me a lot of another great Maine biology text, The Mind of the Raven. They both take a look If you've ever wondered where baby lobsters come from, this book explains it -- in great detail. The overall theme of the book is understanding the ecology of lobsters, and the debate between lobster scientists and lobstermen about how many lobsters to catch. The book describes the extraordinarily successful steps lobstermen have been taking to preserve and expand the lobster population. This book reminded me a lot of another great Maine biology text, The Mind of the Raven. They both take a look at how science works. Corson does a great job explaining experiments -- and how even when our experiments prove our theories wrong, we still learn more. You'll also learn why lobsters pee out of the front of their face.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Martin27

    Intriguing study of the lobster-fishing industry in Maine and of the lobster itself, including lurid details of the lobsters' sex life! Seriously, the male lobster is quite thoughtful and tender, gently stroking the female with his antennae as he goes about wooing. Lively, well written; follows the lives of several lobster fishermen and the efforts (sometimes misguided) of scientists to resolve the problems of the supposedly dwindling supply (of lobsters, and therefore sooner or later of fisherm Intriguing study of the lobster-fishing industry in Maine and of the lobster itself, including lurid details of the lobsters' sex life! Seriously, the male lobster is quite thoughtful and tender, gently stroking the female with his antennae as he goes about wooing. Lively, well written; follows the lives of several lobster fishermen and the efforts (sometimes misguided) of scientists to resolve the problems of the supposedly dwindling supply (of lobsters, and therefore sooner or later of fishermen). I liked this book very much. A page-turner.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    What I learned.... I learned that lobsters piss in each others faces to show dominance and share scents. I learned that Maine lobstermen take lobster conservation very seriously. I learned that the lobster view of the world is nothing like mine. I learned that scientists call post-larval lobsters superlobsters. And much else. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book weaving together the scientific pursuit of the lobster worldview with the communities of Maine lobstermen and fight to keep lobsters from What I learned.... I learned that lobsters piss in each others faces to show dominance and share scents. I learned that Maine lobstermen take lobster conservation very seriously. I learned that the lobster view of the world is nothing like mine. I learned that scientists call post-larval lobsters superlobsters. And much else. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book weaving together the scientific pursuit of the lobster worldview with the communities of Maine lobstermen and fight to keep lobsters from being overfished.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Accidentally forgot to bring a book with me to read once I finished Bossypants. Believe it or not but I have actually been meaning to read this one and yes, it really is about lobsters. It's pretty good so far! Lordy. Am I ever going to finish this book?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tim Martin

    _The Secret Life of Lobsters_ by Trevor Corson is an engaging look at the natural history of _Homarus americanus_, the American lobster and the history of the lobster fishery. The biology of lobsters is well-covered in this book. Lobsters take about seven years to become sexually active (which is also about the amount of time it takes for them to reach harvestable size). Adult lobsters spend the winter far from shore (often 20 miles), frequently on mud plains 200-300 feet underwater, but with th _The Secret Life of Lobsters_ by Trevor Corson is an engaging look at the natural history of _Homarus americanus_, the American lobster and the history of the lobster fishery. The biology of lobsters is well-covered in this book. Lobsters take about seven years to become sexually active (which is also about the amount of time it takes for them to reach harvestable size). Adult lobsters spend the winter far from shore (often 20 miles), frequently on mud plains 200-300 feet underwater, but with the arrival of spring migrate to warmer, shallower, inshore waters, sometimes just 15-20 feet below water, seeking to find the warmest sheltered places so they could safely molt and then return to deeper water. As the lobster molts, the calcium drains out of it shell and is stored in a pair of reservoirs called gastroliths, located to either side of the stomach, which is ingested by the lobster after molting (for centuries humans ate gastroliths in the belief they served medicinal purposes). Lobsters will seek to evict smaller lobsters from desirable homes and even in some cases several neighboring smaller lobsters to make a larger home (something generally done without much violence if the lobsters are of clearly different sizes but fights occur if they are more evenly matched). Lobsters are either right- or left-handed, favoring either the right or left claw for crushing and the other for seizing and cutting. Lobsters as adults can fling themselves backwards with rapid contractions of their abdominal muscles, but in their two week-long postlarva stage, for once in their life the can swim forward, with their little claws outstretched (leading some to call this stage the "superlobster" stage). The techniques of lobster fishing are also covered (the author served for a time as a sternman on a ship). Lobster traps are divided into two sections (a kitchen, which contains a bag of bait, and one or two parlors, which hold the lobsters until the trap is pulled up) and are built using steel rings that corrode slowly in seawater, eventually disintegrating and allowing lobsters to escape from lost traps. The traps are secured to buoys by special ropes, the top half containing lead filament to keep it sunken and away from boat propellers, the bottom half buoyant so as to not be abraded on rocks below). Lobstermen measure lobsters with a brass ruler called the "gauge," part of a minimum-size law that has been in effect in Maine since 1895 to allow lobsters to survive until breeding age (and starting in 1933 the gauge also delineated a maximum size, a law that Maine pioneered to protect older lobsters, which produce vast numbers of eggs). If a female lobster with eggs showed up in a trap, a lobsterman used a fish knife and cut a quarter-inch triangle out of the tail flipper (a "V-notch," making such a lobster a "V-notcher"); this triangular cut would make it illegal to sell that lobster if it was caught again, whether or not it was bearing eggs. Though at first fishermen had to be forced to throw back egg-bearing lobsters (lobster eggs were a delicacy in 19th century London), eventually Maine lobstermen made V-notches of their own volition starting in the 1950s. Lobstermen have lots of names for lobsters. In addition to V-notchers, there are "eggers" (those caught while bearing eggs), "shorts" (undersize lobsters, thrown back), "shedders" (newly molted lobsters that now meet the minimum legal size requirement), "chicken" lobsters (or "chix;" lobsters below a pound and a quarter, the size most in demand for clambakes and thought to be saleable at a price most consumers could afford), and "selects" (lobsters with a three-and-a-half inch carapace and weighing a pound and a quarter or more, more expensive than chicken lobsters and the size that many regulators and scientists pushed lobstermen to catch). There has been much debate over the years on how to manage the lobster industry, with scientists and many government regulators on one side, convinced that the lobsters were in decline, that too many lobsters that had just reached legal size were being taken or in fact too many were being taken before they became sexually mature, and the lobstermen, who didn't believe that scientists and regulators knew themselves just how many eggers and V-notchers were out there (and contended that their detractors refused to either come on the boats and see for themselves or believe the lobstermen's own data). Lobster research received a great deal of attention in the book as well. Researchers Jelle Atema and Diane Cowan working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts did pioneering research in studying lobster sex pheromones, sensory organs, and mating practices and the research the author described made for interesting reading. Bob Steneck, working in the wild, did important research on the types of habitat (young lobsters needed areas with small rocks for hiding, while older lobsters needed bigger boulders) and shelters (cataloguing them as either "restricted-fit" or "relaxed-fit") lobsters preferred in the wild. During the course of his research Bob became friends with two lobstermen by the name of Jack Merrill and Bruce Fernald, residents of Little Cranberry Island, one of the fourteen remaining year-round Maine island fishing communities. Despite an increasing number of traps and lobstermen, the Maine lobster catch totals hovers around 20 million pounds annually. Bob and other researchers concluded that a fixed amount of seafloor shelter may cap the number of new lobsters. This demographic bottleneck would limit the number of lobsters that reached adulthood, regardless of how many eggs were produced. Interestingly, another demographic bottleneck appears to no longer exist. Once cod in their millions feasted on lobsters of a certain size; "the young adults that today wander freely and supply a vibrant fishery, would have been attacked by cod the instant" they were of a size to attract their attention, surviving only if they outgrew their predators, but with the cod all but extinct, that bottleneck is gone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    B. Rule

    This is a very well written book, but it focuses more on the lobster fishing industry of Maine and the scientists who study the ecology of the Gulf of Maine than it does on the biology and behavior of lobsters. There are some interesting morsels of biology scattered throughout, but I wish the focus would have stayed there longer. That said, the interaction of environmental factors, the economics of fishing, and the lifecycle of lobsters presents a very interesting case study of complex systems a This is a very well written book, but it focuses more on the lobster fishing industry of Maine and the scientists who study the ecology of the Gulf of Maine than it does on the biology and behavior of lobsters. There are some interesting morsels of biology scattered throughout, but I wish the focus would have stayed there longer. That said, the interaction of environmental factors, the economics of fishing, and the lifecycle of lobsters presents a very interesting case study of complex systems analysis. Corson is a good writer and the origins of this book in an Atlantic Monthly article are evident. At times, his massaging of the timeline to fit the writerly structure is overly vigorous and the results painfully contorted. But overall I enjoyed the book even if it wasn't the one I intended to read. I wanted to read more about lobsters pissing in each others' faces!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    Read in preparation for my trip to Maine, this all inclusive book describes the life of lobster fisherman, the researchers studying lobsters, the science they have learned, and the politics that surround their farming. Nice balance of the science and the personal. Includes amazing observations of the lobsters mating and shedding rituals.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mayim de Vries

    Sarah? Is that you?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    My original rating was a 3, but I am willing to bump it up to a 3.5 after reading that the author was a sternman on a lobster boat for 2 years, which gives him another layer of insight into the subject. A bit of biology, a bit of ecology, a bit of sociology, all rolled into one book. You learn a lot about lobster behavior, perhaps more than you really want to know, especially if you want to continue eating them. I think the highlight of the book for me was the respect that the lobstering communi My original rating was a 3, but I am willing to bump it up to a 3.5 after reading that the author was a sternman on a lobster boat for 2 years, which gives him another layer of insight into the subject. A bit of biology, a bit of ecology, a bit of sociology, all rolled into one book. You learn a lot about lobster behavior, perhaps more than you really want to know, especially if you want to continue eating them. I think the highlight of the book for me was the respect that the lobstering community has for these creatures, despite what an outsider might expect. The lobstermen don't want to see the population decline from overfishing any more than the scientists do, and have even implemented their own measures to protect egg-bearing females independent of the governmental regulations. If you have any interest in lobsters, and the men and women who catch them, give this book a try.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Corinne Edwards

    I have to admit that before this book, I have never given lobsters more than ten minutes of thought before. Maybe not even that. When I asked a trusted reader-friend what I should read if I was going to visit Maine, she recommended this book. My expectations were probably low, considering the subject matter, but the minute I started listening, I was all in. The Secret Life of Lobsters is absolutely, yes, about lobsters. It's about their behavior, their physical bodies, their mating and the specif I have to admit that before this book, I have never given lobsters more than ten minutes of thought before. Maybe not even that. When I asked a trusted reader-friend what I should read if I was going to visit Maine, she recommended this book. My expectations were probably low, considering the subject matter, but the minute I started listening, I was all in. The Secret Life of Lobsters is absolutely, yes, about lobsters. It's about their behavior, their physical bodies, their mating and the specific environment that their bodies need to grow and thrive. The science here is pretty fascinating, even for a non-scientist like myself, we dig deep into actual hands-on research, in the lab, out in the water and, interestingly enough, on the lobsterman's boat. Throughout the text we get to know a lot of different scientists who have dedicated their career (and lives, in some cases) to understanding the lobster itself. We also get to know a few very specific lobstermen (and women) from the Maine Coast. These people spend their daylight hours out on the water, seeing first hand how lobsters interact with their world and, for the even more importantly, how lobsters as a resource are being managed. Much of this book is this pull and tug between the scientists and the lobstermen and how the population of lobsters is handling the current rates of fishing. Overfishing is a real issue, obviously, but it is interesting to see how the lobstermen have tackled it. Science can measure and calculate so many different minuscule things but it is different to be the guy out on the boat pulling traps in and seeing what is really in front of your face. I liked this interplay a lot. The narrative is interesting because clearly the author is privy to all kinds of situations, he is witness to all kinds of things and yet he is NOT part of it. It's a very objective way of storytelling, with no opinions. I noticed it but it didn't bother me that he is clearly telling a story about a world he is involved in, in some unknown way (the author's notes do give us clues). I liked his writing style enough that I would absolutely read more by this author. Not only do I feel like I know more about lobsters, but I have a real sense of a specific way of life that ebbs and flows with traps full of them.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex Colley

    I didn't find this book well written and there was too much unchecked casual misogyny. I would not recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    I had started to read this a few years ago and got stuck on the introduction. This time around no such problem and I'm glad I picked it up again since I absolutely loved it. Who knew that lobsters were so fascinating? Things that I learned are: 1. Male lobsters have two penises 2. Female lobsters search out the male when it's time to mate. They can take in the sperm and then add the eggs later. 3. They shed their shells many, many, many times during the course of the lives 4. It is literally a pissi I had started to read this a few years ago and got stuck on the introduction. This time around no such problem and I'm glad I picked it up again since I absolutely loved it. Who knew that lobsters were so fascinating? Things that I learned are: 1. Male lobsters have two penises 2. Female lobsters search out the male when it's time to mate. They can take in the sperm and then add the eggs later. 3. They shed their shells many, many, many times during the course of the lives 4. It is literally a pissing contest when lobsters are fighting for dominance as the lobsters urinate through their mouths and are spitting pee at their opponent. 5. Smell is very important 6. They can't swim except for the couple of weeks when they are super lobsters. Other than that, they walk. Strange visualization, isn't it? The author did a great job of balancing the story of the families who make their living catching lobsters with the actual science of lobsters.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    What interests you? Fishermen culture? The natural history and reproductive behavior of lobsters? Conservation policy? Interesting solutions to scientific and engineering challenges? Geological impacts on aquatic populations? This warm and funny book has something for everyone. It is a love letter to the lobster industry as well as the scientists trying to understand these marvelous underwater arthropods, and it's also convinced me I need to take a trip to Maine, so add travel journalism to the What interests you? Fishermen culture? The natural history and reproductive behavior of lobsters? Conservation policy? Interesting solutions to scientific and engineering challenges? Geological impacts on aquatic populations? This warm and funny book has something for everyone. It is a love letter to the lobster industry as well as the scientists trying to understand these marvelous underwater arthropods, and it's also convinced me I need to take a trip to Maine, so add travel journalism to the list of things it offers as well. In short, I feel I have a sufficient enough understanding of many of the factors at play in the population dynamics of lobsters to bore more than a few people with my animated conversation, and thinking of them as one part of a vast aquatic ecosystem, am absolutely terrified about the effects climate change will have on these remarkable feats of evolutionary forces.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    You may think that lobsters could not possibly offer an interesting topic for an entire book - even one with an eyebrow-raising title reference to the "secret life" of these crustaceans. As it turns out, you would be exactly right. The book has the style of a magazine feature, and Corson probably should have left it at article length. Corson not only tackles the biology, ecology, and behavior of lobsters, but also the economy, culture, and politics of Maine's lobster industry. The interwoven top You may think that lobsters could not possibly offer an interesting topic for an entire book - even one with an eyebrow-raising title reference to the "secret life" of these crustaceans. As it turns out, you would be exactly right. The book has the style of a magazine feature, and Corson probably should have left it at article length. Corson not only tackles the biology, ecology, and behavior of lobsters, but also the economy, culture, and politics of Maine's lobster industry. The interwoven topics do not lack for pertinent detail, and each is interesting in its own right – to a point. However, after the first 100 pages, neither the subject nor the writing (Corson’s efforts to humanize the people in his book quickly become clichéd and predictable) can sustain the casual reader who has no other independent interest in lobsters or lobstermen.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    This book tells the story of individual lobstermen, their communities, marine scientists, US regulatory politics, as well as the biology of lobsters in an entertaining way. In addition to finally understanding how lobsters molt, I found some great insights about the interplay between science, evidence, and policy. Example of one particular insight regarding how far wrong desk science can go in interpreting data. In a nutshell: marine scientists looked at the small size of lobsters being caught o This book tells the story of individual lobstermen, their communities, marine scientists, US regulatory politics, as well as the biology of lobsters in an entertaining way. In addition to finally understanding how lobsters molt, I found some great insights about the interplay between science, evidence, and policy. Example of one particular insight regarding how far wrong desk science can go in interpreting data. In a nutshell: marine scientists looked at the small size of lobsters being caught off the Maine coast and predicted a population decline - they didn't take into account that lobstermen were returning a large share of the catch, voluntarily, that was over a maximum size limit or that had been previously caught and identified as a breeding female. A single day on a lobster boat would have at least raised questions about the simple desk models.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I read this years ago and was happy to find that it holds up on read-aloud to the next generation. Both kids gave it a 4. Extremely well-written, balanced look at an ecological science and how those dependent on that ecology can provide additional insight that scientists may not see at first, as well as how the industry can continue to help protect it as it may change due to forces beyond their control. Since 15 years have passed since this book was written (sob) I can't help but wonder where so I read this years ago and was happy to find that it holds up on read-aloud to the next generation. Both kids gave it a 4. Extremely well-written, balanced look at an ecological science and how those dependent on that ecology can provide additional insight that scientists may not see at first, as well as how the industry can continue to help protect it as it may change due to forces beyond their control. Since 15 years have passed since this book was written (sob) I can't help but wonder where some of these folks are now and how the industry has changed. Off to research.

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