Ever wanted to live forever? Unfortunately, like smartphones, humans have a kind of built-in obsolescence that limits our maximum theoretical lifespan to around 125 years. Lobsters don’t have this problem, however – they basically don’t age, though this superpower comes with one big caveat that sounds like it could have been bestowed by a cruel genie.
In humans, ageing is inevitable (sorry). The longer we live, the more our body degrades as our DNA sustains irreparable damage. This results in a slower metabolism, a decrease in fertility and loss of strength, which all contribute to age-related disease and decline.
Lobsters, on the other hand, don’t experience this decline. As they age they basically continue on the same, and they never stop growing – so the longer they live, the larger they become. Lobsters can continue reproducing as normal right up until their death, and even experience advantages in reproduction as they get older.
This all sounds pretty great, right? Imagine if instead of becoming decrepit in your old age, you just kept growing and became an absolute unit. Scientists have even tried to reverse-engineer the mechanisms that keep lobsters immune from the ravages of age to apply it to humans one day.
In theory, this would mean that lobsters could live forever unless they were killed by a predator or died of illness or injury – but this isn’t the case. Life is cruel, and lobsters’ supposed longevity comes with one cruel trick.
As invertebrates, lobsters have to shed their shells as they grow – and as we’ve covered already, they never stop growing. However the larger a lobster gets, the more metabolic energy shedding requires. Every successive shed is more exhausting than the last, until the lobster reaches a point where it doesn’t have the energy to shed its shell again.
This can lead to infections as the old shell cracks and becomes damaged, and these kinds of infections will inevitably kill the oldest lobsters. If they do attempt one last shed, the energy required to do it can also kill them.
Turns out even immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, huh?
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