A rare calico lobster is on display at the Portland Lobster Co. on Commercial Street.

The creature is sporting a mottled orange and black shell rather than the usual deep green and red.

The lobster was caught by Larry and Crystal Dunne, who fish for lobster out of Portland. The Saco couple pulled it up a couple of days ago off Cape Elizabeth while aboard their boat, the Bushwacker.

Portland Lobster Co. is boarding the calico crustacean until the Dunnes can find it a new home.

“We have him in a bay of the tank with little notes to our kitchen staff not to cook him. I am really nervous,” said Ethan Morgan, the manager of Portland Lobster Co.

Calico lobsters are one of the rarest of miscolored lobsters. A blue lobster is one in a million and a yellow or orange is one in 30 million, said Diane Cowan lobster scientist and the founder of the Lobster Conservancy in Friendship.

Calicos are even rarer. Only albinos are rarer, though just how rare is anyone’s guess.

“But nobody really knows,” said Cowan.

Cowan said discolored shells are a genetic trait. In her 25 years of research, she has only seen two or three calicos, presents to her from local fishermen.

The Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor has a tank filled with unusual lobsters, half multi-colored and half normal. The lobsters have been donated by lobstermen, said Aimee Hayden-Roderiques, aquarium manager.

She said she hears it is good luck to catch a miscolored lobster and bad luck to eat one.

Crystal Dunne said she and her husband are working their way through the entire lobster color spectrum. Her husband has caught both blue and yellow specimens in the past.

Finding a permanent home for the calico creature may be harder than usual this summer. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland has so many donations, including an albino lobster donated by Portland lobsterman Dave Laliberte this summer, it has run out of room.

Alan Lishness, the institute’s chief innovation office, said he doesn’t know why so many off-colored lobsters are turning up off the Maine coast this year.

“This is an unusual summer,” Lishness said.

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]