Lobster, or Cancer, L. a genus of insects comprising 20 species ; the principal of which is the grammarus, or Common Lobster : it has a smooth breast, four pair of legs, six joints in the tail, and rounded train-fins.
These creatures inhabit the clearest water, at the foot of rocks that impend over the sea. They are brought in vast quantities from the Orkney isles, and several parts of the eastern coast of Scotland, to the London markets. Being extremely prolific, they begin to breed in the spring, and continue to spawn during the greater part of the summer. Dr. Baster counted 12,444 eggs under the tail of one lobster, beside those which remain ed in the body unprotruded : after being deposited in the sand, these embryons are soon hatched.
Lobsters change their shell annually, and acquire a new one in a few days : like crabs, they will renew their claws, if deprived of them by accident. These shellfish are remarkably voracious, feeding on sea-weeds, garbage, and all sorts of carcass.
Few lobsters are taken by the hand ; as the greater number are caught in pots, or a kind of trap constructed of twigs, baited with garbage, and formed similar to a wire mouse-trap, so that the inseCt, after entering it, cannot escape. Such machines are fastened to a cord sunk in the sea, and the place is marked by a buoy. In summer, they are found near the shore, and thence to about six fathoms deep ; but, in winter, they are seldom taken in less than 12 or 15 fathoms of water.
Lobsters continue to grow in size only while their shells are soft. Those selected for the table, ought to be heavy in proportion to their size, and be furnished with a hard crust on their sides, which, when in perfection, will not yield to moderate pressure. Barnacles, and other small fish, adhering to them, are considered as certain signs of superior quality. The male lobsters are, in general, preferable in the winter, and may be distinguished from the female, by their narrow trains, and a strong spine upon the centre of each transverse prominence beneath the tail.
The meat of a lobster's claw is more delicate and easy of digestion than that from any other part; yet there have been instances where the eating of this shell-fish has been productive of disagreeable effects, especially when it is consumed in a state approaching to putridity. Thus, the greater number of lobsters sold in London are boiled and re-boiled every day, for a week, or longer, to sweeten them externally; though the inner part is generally corrupted. Such a dish cannot fail to be extremely unwholesome; and we advise those who have inadvertently partaken of it, and are in consequence affected with putrid eructations, to drink large portions of strong lemonade, or a mixture of vinegar and water ; because vegetable acids are in this case the most efficacious antidotes. Sometimes,the immoderate use of lobsters is attended with eruptions of the erysipelatous kind in the face, or a species of nettle-rash over the whole body; either of which, being salutary efforts of Nature to expel noxious matter, are more troublesome than dangerous.