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Bowie the lobster is half-blue, half-red, and all kinds of rare

A fisherman shows off Bowie the lobster, which is half-blue, half-red and very rare.
Jacob Knowles
A fisherman shows off Bowie the lobster, which is half-blue, half-red and very rare.

Contrary to what a certain casual dining chain might suggest, lobsters come in many colors. There are blue lobsters, orange lobsters, and even calico lobsters.

But Bowie, named after pop icon David Bowie, is a rock star lobster. Bowie is half-red, half-blue; half-male, half-female; and all kinds of rare.

A bicolored lobster is a 1 in 50 million occurrence, according to New England Aquarium biologist Jordan Baker.

The split-color crustacean's blue side is, in adherence to gender reveal party norms, male, while the red is female. Bowie was caught by a lobster fisherman off the coast of Maine and has since clawed its way to internet stardom.

Jacob Knowles' friend brought him the rare catch, which Knowles has shown off in a series of videos.

"I was very blown away by it," he told NPR.

Knowles is a fifth-generation lobsterman, who shows off the Atlantic's sea creatures to his millions of followers on TikTok and Instagram.

"Nobody I've talked to in the harbor has ever seen one like this either," he said. "So, that speaks pretty loudly."

Bowie got its name from commenters, who favorited the suggestion of naming it after David Bowie roughly 50,000 times. The rationale was that David Bowie was famously androgynous and appeared to have different colored eyes.

Some other suggestions: Two-Face, Icy Hot and Lobstery McLobsterface.

Knowles' personal favorite was "50 Percent."

So how does a lobster end up looking like two fused together?

It happens during development, says Baker.

"There are these embryo mutations or changes in that ontogenetic development," she explains. "The combination of embryos or division that basically make two different animals."

Proteins and pigments in the lobster's shell create the different shades, which can even change as the lobster molts or based on its diet.

And it is possible for Bowie to lay eggs, which Knowles hopes will happen.

Another cool lobster fact? They can taste with their feet.

"And that's usually how we get them to eat is rubbing a food item right where they're walking and they'll find it because of that unique ability," Baker said.

For now, Bowie is being kept in a cage in the ocean, where Knowles regularly checks in. Knowles is mulling what comes next for the rock star lobster.

Baker hopes he'll consider donating Bowie to her aquarium, which is also home to several other strangely hued lobsters.

"A lot of lobstermen in our area, in Maine and the rest of New England have been really generous when they find these rarities and offer them to us," she said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alina Hartounian
Alina Hartounian is a supervising editor for NPR's NewsHub, an audience focused team of reporters and editors who largely write for NPR.org. While guiding coverage, she has also taken time to write about bicolored lobsters and microchip graffiti.