A demographic crisis looms over Maine, the oldest and whitest state in the U.S. with one of the country’s lowest birth rates.
Employers are already feeling the effects on Maine’s workforce as they struggle to fill positions with “old Mainers” — long-time residents in a state where many take pride in their deep family roots, especially along the shores of Washington County.
Here in the rugged, eastern edges of the U.S., dotted with evergreens and wood-shingled houses, many make a living from the waters of Down East Maine, including Annie Sokoloski, an office manager in Steuben, Maine, for Lobster Trap, a wholesale lobster dealer. Working in seafood goes back generations in her family.
“My grandmother forced me to go into the fish factory and pack sardines,” says Sokoloski, who recalls working as a sardine packer while on break from school. “She told me anytime that I thought about not having an education I needed to remember that day.”
These days, Sokoloski says she still remembers other lessons: “You need to get away from here to make anything for yourself” she remembers her grandparents telling her when she was growing up.
Er… the thing about lobsters not aging is a myth. They can totally die of old age.
No, okay, so this is actually a really neat subject! Thank you for the excuse to babble.
To clarify, I am basing this off of discussions with a labmate/colleague who is doing his postdoctoral research on aging, with arthropods as a study system. (He’s not working on lobsters, though. Although that would be awesome.)
So lobsters are certainly not immortal. They have a general lifespan, estimated at about 100 years or so. Lobsters die! But, what lobsters don’t do, precisely is age. Or, more specifically, they have what’s called ‘negligible senescence’, where senescence means deterioration with age.
Organisms with negligible senescence perform neither reproductively nor functionally worse as they get older, and, in the case of lobsters are actually more fit the older they get. This is because they get BIGGER, and bigger lobsters are less likely to get eaten, etc.
A 100 year old lobster is a super-stud.
However, as in all things, there are trade-offs. See, as an arthropod, you have to shed your skin to grow. The bigger you are, the more energetically costly it is to molt. And eventually, you’re going to try to molt, and the process is going to be so draining you’re going die of exhaustion before you finish.
So, yeah. Lobsters don’t die of old age in the traditional sense: accumulated oxidative damage, mutations, deterioration of function. Lobsters die of massive, exhausting molting marthons gone wrong.
Other organisms with (maybe) negligible senescence: hydras, naked mole rats (eusocial mammals, so cool!), some turtles, some trees, some clams.