It’s not every day that Red Lobster decides to keep and save one of the lobsters shipped to their restaurants, but there was something very special about one of the lobsters they received this month.
When employees at a Red Lobster location in Hollywood, Florida unpacked the shipment, they noticed a rare bright orange lobster among the others. Knowing just how rare it is to find a lobster that’s anything but brown (they turn red when cooked), the employees began a mission to rescue the lobster, who has affectionately been named Cheddar after the restaurant chain’s famous cheddar biscuits and, obviously, her orange color.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach answered the rescue call and welcomed Cheddar to her new home this week.
“Sometimes ordinary miracles happen, and Cheddar is one of them,” Red Lobster manager Mario Roque (pictured below), who led the rescue of Cheddar, said in a press release. “A group of incredible people helped us make this possible. We are so honored to have been able to save Cheddar and find her a good home.”
Lobsters get their coloration from the plants they eat; pigments from their diet migrate into the shell and mix with shell proteins, depositing different bright colors into layers that appear muddy brown when combined. Lobsters appear red when cooked because the animal’s other colored pigments break down when heated. Color variations, or morphs, tend to be the result of a genetic mutation.
Orange lobsters like Cheddar are rare — only about one in 30 million lobsters caught are orange — because any unusual coloring makes those lobsters more attractive to predators.
There’s no need to worry about Cheddar, though, as she will be forever protected in her new habitat at Ripley’s.
“We are incredibly proud of Mario and the team for recognizing what a special and rare creature Cheddar is and for working relentlessly to find someone to rescue her,” said Nicole Bott, senior director of communications at Red Lobster. “It is an honor to be able to share the story of Cheddar and provide her a new home where she can be enjoyed by many for years to come, all from the safety of her tank.”
While orange lobsters are rare, they have been caught before. Just a few years ago in 2019, the owner of a fish market in Washington noticed an interesting lobster in his daily seafood delivery.
Not only was this lobster an unusual color, it had a speckled, orange-and-black shell and turned out to be what is called a calico lobster. The odds of catching one are about the same as a plain orange lobster, at one in 30 million.
According to the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, American lobsters can also be blue, yellow, split-colored or even albino. Your chances of finding an albino lobster? About one in 100 million.
Blue lobsters are not quite as rare as orange or albino lobsters, with the chance of catching one at about one in two million. They’re still so rare, however, that when lobsterman Wayne Nickerson caught a blue lobster in 2016, it was only the second time he had caught one since 1990.
To learn more about Cheddar the orange lobster’s new home at Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, just head to Ripley Aquarium’s website.