When Is a Lobster Not a Lobster?

When it’s served at Long John Silvers! I just saw an ad for LJS’ new “Buttered Lobster Bites,” basically a carton of popcorn-chicken-like-crustacean-parts for $2.99. Careful listeners may have paused when they heard that the lobster was “real langostino lobster.” Huh? Now I know my lobster. In fact, I created the world’s premier lobster site years ago while bored, working for the US Embassy in Belgium. However, even I, the great De Kreeft (The Lobster, as I was known in Dutch) was uncertain of which beast this referred to.


Well a little internet sleuthing proved that others also had their “BS meters raised to 11” when they heard this, like fellow blogger H.C. Hodge here.

Long story short, “langostino lobster” is an FDA approved term that can refer to Cervimunida johni, Pleuroncodes monodon, or Munida gregaria. Commonly referred to as squat lobsters, they grow no more than 3 inches long and live in sediment. They are more closely related to hermit crabs than true crabs and are in a different infraorder altogether from lobsters. As Hodge points out, the term “mud bugs” probably does not have quite the same marketing appeal.

Cervimunida johni

i-a1fee9d477b64a72c39e2c75eea99bbd-Pleuroncodes monodon.jpg
Pleuroncodes monodon

Couldn’t find any good pictures of Munida gregaria, but suffice it to say this little fellow is no more delicious looking than his fellow FDA approved buddies. On a side note, the North American lobster is not much of a looker herself, but I’m sure your average Long John Silver patron would draw a line between lobster and Munida gregaria, regardless of what lobby convinced the FDA to certify otherwise.


  1. #1 Homie Bear
    December 17, 2007

    The unrelenting need for protein will mean we will start to eat some pretty crazy stuff. It can only end with Soylent green.

  2. #2 Christopher Taylor
    December 18, 2007

    Hmmm… The natural history books I used to read as a kid gave those critters the common name of “whalefeed”. Would that be any more acceptable to American consumers?

  3. #3 cthulhus minion
    December 18, 2007

    They are called rock shrimp here in the gulf, and are mighty tasty battered and fried

  4. #4 csrster
    December 18, 2007

    … when it’s been airbrushed from the pages of history!


  5. #5 Barn Owl
    December 18, 2007

    They are more closely related to hermit crabs than true crabs and are in a different phylum altogether from lobsters.

    Surely they are arthropods, crustaceans, and malacostracans…unless taxonomy has changed quite a bit since I took invertebrate zoology.

    Who eats at Long John Silvers, anyway? FSM only knows what’s hiding under the batter. 😛

  6. #6 Andrew
    December 18, 2007

    Writing a little too quickly last night. Infraorder.

  7. #7 Jenbug
    December 18, 2007

    Barf. I’m a lifelong hater of seafood and only recently have started trying shrimp. No real reason, I just got weirded out eating things with their eyes on stalks and without closed circulatory systems. I have yet to try crab or lobster, but the other day I had some shark in a Dim Sum . . . I guess the best way to describe it was ‘wad.’ It was good!

    But I will have to take a pass on this. At least until I build up my tolerance.

    Hmmm. . .’Hey kids, try new Mud Bug Nuggets!’

    Nope, doens’t appeal.

  8. #8 neil
    December 18, 2007

    Well, given the choice between some yummy wild caught crustaceans and what passes for “chicken” in most fast food troughs, I say bring on the bug bites! And I think the “McRib” proved that there is no depth to which the bargain food industry won’t plumb.

  9. #9 Jonathan
    December 18, 2007

    Jenbug: If you’re gonna eat seafood, you’re better off eating any kind of disgusting ‘bugs’ then the shark. Yes, it IS delicious, but it’s rather frowned upon in conservationist circles, to say the least. 🙂

    Squat lobsters, eh? Interesting… I see these all the time when I do submersible and ROV work, and I’ve always been surprised that nobody here has started a fishery for them.

  10. #10 Jonathan Vos Post
    December 18, 2007

    So what were the “Balmaine Bugs” that I ate in Sydney, Austraalia? They were delicious.

    CNN says:

    “Balmaine Bugs, a crustacean similar to a lobster, is found in abundance under the Australian surf and on dinner plates …”


    But I trust you more than CNN or Long John Silver’s on Zoology. I mean, wasn’t Long John Silver a fictional pirate? And whom but Johnny Depp and Disney trust pirates?

    I, for one, welcome our new crustacean similar to lobster overlords.

  11. #11 randy
    December 18, 2007

    Long John Silver was the cook.

  12. #12 Mark Powell
    December 18, 2007

    You have a point, and you’re aligned with Maine’s congressional delegation in seeking linguistic purity. Maybe protecting lobster in the marketplace will eventually spill over into protecting lobster in the ocean, so we have some left for future generations to eat. See blogfish for more http://blogfishx.blogspot.com/2006/10/lobster-protection-in-marketplace_11.html

  13. #13 Mark P
    December 18, 2007

    This was actually reported somewhere a few months ago, maybe NPR. As to who eats at LJS, well I do occasionally, although I prefer Cap’n D, or whatever it is. It may not be great seafood, but the only other choice in this small town is Red Lobster (Red Langostino?) and CD’s fish is actually better than RL’s. If you can imagine that.

  14. #14 Bee
    December 18, 2007

    Mud Bugs = Lobsters? Anathema!

    I live in the Maritimes, where it’s always lobster season somewhere. It’s our Christmas Eve feast.

    I would try these little guys, though, without the batter and grease.

  15. #15 Alexa
    December 19, 2007

    Langoustine – as we call them here in Europe – have been eaten for as long as I can remember. Usually they are cooked like lobster or giant shrimp (typically with garlic and melted butter with home made mayonnaise on the side), not deep fried in grim little greaseballs!

  16. #16 Azure
    December 19, 2007

    Anything battered and fried like that tastes about the same. Woe to those little guys if this food proves popular.

  17. #17 Andrew
    December 19, 2007

    Alexa – I believe what you are referring to as langoustine, also called the Norway Lobster, is typically referred to as scampi and is indeed closely related to the North American lobster in the infraorder Astacidea. However, the squat lobster, which the FDA has green lighted as langostino lobster, is actually fairly different taxonomically and is more closely related to hermit crabs in the infraorder Anomura.

  18. #18 Jonathan Vos Post
    December 19, 2007

    It’s hard to distinguish between a pirate and his cook.

    “The only evidence that fate played a part in Putin’s story comes from his grandfather’s job: he cooked for Joseph Stalin.”

    Time Magazine, “Person of the Year 2007: Choosing Order Before Freedom.”

  19. #19 Benny
    December 19, 2007

    I couldn’t agree more with Jonathan. If you ask me, the connection between these little hermit crabby lobsters and Russia’s bid to regain their place as a major power broker on the world stage has never been so clear.

  20. #20 Jonathan Vos Post
    December 19, 2007

    Eactly, Benny.

    “The proof of what was achieved at this ‘lobster summit’ will be in Russian and American actions in the months ahead.”
    Allison, Graham. “The Lobster Summit.” Op-Ed. The Boston Globe (July 5, 2007). Graham Allison is Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government; Faculty Chair, Dubai Initiative.

    Translation: LOBSTER

    Translation: CRAB

    I rest my case. And a bottle o’ rum. Or vodka, for Russian pirates.

  21. #21 Jonathan Vos Post
    December 19, 2007

    “Eactly” should be “Exactly” — and the Cyrillic characters in my browser didn’t paste correctly into this blog. But the Russians do have a 4-letter word which means “red as a lobster.” And they should know.

    Transliterating into our alphabet, Alco=Lobster and Alco=Fierce.

    See also

    See also:
    DUELAND, JOY V. – The Book of the Lobster

  22. #22 Jon H
    December 31, 2007

    IMHO, if it’s going to be minced, processed, battered, and fried, far better that it be done to these humble little critters than to the magnificent true lobster.

    It’d be sad if a 50 year old lobster wound up as nuggets.

    If you’re not pulling the meat out of it, who cares how big they grow?

  23. #23 Andrew
    December 31, 2007

    Jon – Valid point and one I personally agree with. That being said, these critters are distinctly different creatures than lobsters, so where do you draw the line, particularly when it comes to marketing? What about reconstituted krill balls? Are their fellow arthropoda, cockroaches, going too far?

  24. #24 Grieve
    January 4, 2008

    As long as it tastes good, and does not instantly kill me…

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