Lobster Cognition: Are Lobsters Intelligent?

are lobsters intelligent

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The intelligence and feelings of lobsters have been the subject of debate for decades.

Lobster used to be considered “trash food” in the 1950s but is now one of the most widely-eaten delicacies.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at a question many often wonder: Are lobsters intelligent?

To answer this in a nutshell, yes they are. Lobsters are much more intelligent than they are given credit for, and in fact, new research shows that their intelligence rivals that of the Octopus.

Let’s take a closer look…

Are Lobsters Actually Intelligent?

Contrary to what you may believe, lobsters are actually intelligent. They are not brainless, reflex creatures that are good for nothing more than expensive dinners.

Lobsters, if left alone can live as long as 100 years. They can recognize other lobsters and remember past acquaintances, as well as have elaborate mating rituals.

Researchers who study lobsters have said that their intelligence rivals that of an Octopus, which is widely known to be an intelligent invertebrate.

Prominent scientists such as Jordan Peterson have drawn attention to the complex social hierarchies of lobsters, which are partly governed by serotonin.

Lobsters are intelligent enough that they can learn to avoid pain, which was up until recently thought to only be a trait of vertebrates.

Do Lobsters Have Feelings?

The lobster fishing industry is undeniably huge, with a global lobster market value of $5.66 billion in 2020.

With an industry that large, and such a staple in countries around the world, it’s easy to overlook the feelings of lobsters and how they are treated.

Many of us would be outraged at the thought of cats or dogs being mistreated, so why is a lobster any different?

Well, it’s long-debated as to whether lobsters feel pain and have feelings or not. Some people believe that because they do not have brains, they are not able to feel pain.

Whilst others believe that lobsters can indeed feel pain and they intentionally avoid it.

Sadly we do not have the answers to this question just yet, but some countries have decided to make their own mind up and take appropriate action.

Switzerland has actually banned people from boiling lobsters alive, with many other countries now looking into it such as the United Kingdom.

Part of the issue here is that we do not know if a lobster has a “sense of self”.

Perhaps it would be best if like Switzerland we assumed that lobsters do have a sense of self and do not take any chance, but the industry is so large that many fishermen and people in the trade do not want to see this happen.

Unfortunately, we will never know if lobsters have feelings.

Can Lobsters Think?

Whilst lobsters do react to sudden stimuli, such as twitching their tails when in boiling hot water, the Lobster Institute suggests that they do not have complex brains that allow them to think and process pain.

They say that the lobster’s primitive nervous system is most similar to the nervous system of an insect.

A New Swansea University conducted a study on common shore Crabs to identify whether or not they can actually think or not.

The researchers tested 12 crabs in total over the course of 4 weeks. They placed food at the end of a maze which included five changes in direction and three dead ends.

After four weeks, the crabs showed steady improvement in the time it took them to reach the end of the maze and eat the food, and crucially the number of wrong turns taken.

In fact, when the researchers returned the crabs to the same maze two weeks later but without any food, the crabs all reached the end of the maze within eight minutes.

This is a clear sign that the crabs remembered the route. New crabs that were not part of the study took much longer to reach the end of the maze, with some not completing it after one hour.

Although this study was done with crabs, I think it’s likely to assume the same behavior from lobsters too.

Add in the fact that lobsters can have complex social hierarchies and suffer from stress, it’s fair to say that lobsters are smarter than crabs.

Whilst lobsters do not have brains, it’s fair to say that some calculations are going on inside their shell.

Whether that be instinct or something else, something is happening that allows them to learn and make decisions.

Do Lobsters Have Personalities?

Yes, lobsters do have personalities. Some lobsters can be more shy and timid than others, whilst some can be more aggressive.

Much like other creatures and marine animals, lobsters are different from one another in their own right.

Lobsters are actually sensitive animals, and it’s been proven that they feel at least one emotion, anxiety.

Some lobsters are more confident than others, and some are more territorial.

Their personalities can differ depending on where they are geographically, their species as well as their size and position in their hierarchy.

Final Thoughts

So, are lobsters intelligent? Yes, much more intelligent than we give them credit for.

They are social creatures that are able to recognize one another as well as build connections with past acquaintances.

It’s impossible to give a definitive answer about lobsters’ feelings, as the truth is we will never fully understand if lobsters have feelings or not.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you now have a better idea of the intelligence level of lobsters.

They are up there with the likes of Octopuses, which are notorious for their intelligence. Lobsters may be intelligent, but their sense of self and feelings is still up for debate.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, feel free to stick around to learn more about lobsters.