FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Tue Aug 20 09:14:21 EDT 2013

The chemistry behind lobster color and shell disease: New American Chemical Society video

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2013 — With lobster shell disease moving up the East Coast toward Maine — now observing Maine Lobster Month — a new video from the world’s largest scientific society focuses on the disease, the chemistry of lobster shell color and why lobster shells turn red during cooking. The American Chemical Society (ACS) video, the latest episode in ACS’ award-winning Bytesize Science series, is at www.BytesizeScience.com.

In the video, Michael Tlusty, Ph.D., director of research at the New England Aquarium, describes how his lab grows different colored lobsters in an effort to understand shell disease. The condition doesn’t harm humans, but decreases the commercial value of lobsters by disfiguring the crustaceans’ shells. Caused by bacteria, the disease appeared in southern New England waters in the 1990s.

Tlusty also explains the dramatic color change — from muddy brown to bright red — in lobster shells during cooking. Lobster shells have a red pigment, astaxanthin, obscured during life by yellow and blue pigments. Cooking breaks down the yellow and brown pigments, leaving astaxanthin, which is heat-resistant.

For more entertaining, informative science videos and podcasts from the ACS Office of Public Affairs, view Prized Science, Spellbound, Science Elements and Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Michael Tlusty, Ph.D., raises rare-colored lobsters to study shell disease and explains why cooking turns lobster shells bright red.
Credit: XiaoZhi Lim, American Chemical Society
High-resolution image