WTF Fun Fact 12822 – How Do Lobsters Communicate?

Apparently, thousands of people look up “how to lobsters communicate” – and we’re guessing it’s because they’ve heard the truth and it’s hard to believe.

When we heard that lobsters communicate with their bladders and that they can make things known to other lobsters by urinating at them, we thought it was a grossly creative form of expression. But it gets even better.

While it might not be the most exact description of what’s happening, no less an institution than the New England Aquarium has informed lobster learners that the creatures actually “pee out of their faces.”

Say what?

Ok, so let’s break this down a bit. First of all, lobsters use scent to communicate (as do humans, to be fair). You’ve heard of pheromones, right? The scented hormone we secrete?

Because this factoid ran rampant around the internet with such gusto, Snopes to it upon themselves to get the details (gotta love those professional fact-checkers!). They describe the scented face-peeing this way:

“Found within a lobster’s pee are a fair number of pheromones, which they disperse through their nephropore rosette glands. The bladder of a lobster is located under its brain, and the rosette glands are connected to the urinary tract.”

Ok, so the key here seems to be the anatomy – the bladder is right under their brain. There’s only so much room in a lobster, and those of us who have eaten them should probably be grateful that we don’t have to pick their bladders out of their tails.

As for the urine stream comes out of their face, Snopes explains further:

“Once these pheromones are produced, they are introduced into the urine stream. In the case of the American lobster, scientific name Homarus americanus, this pheromone-rich pee is released from nephropores at the base of the lobster’s large antennae and then injected into its gill current. According to the NEAQ, it has been determined that this urine stream can reach a length of seven times the lobster’s body.”

Wait, so how do lobsters communicate this way?

You probably still have some questions. Like, what’s a gill current? Well, according to The American Lobster:

Water passes up through openings between the lobster’s legs, over the gills, and up towards the head.  Every few minutes this current of water is reversed the other way so that debris can be flushed out of the chambers. An important part of this “gill current” is that when it is flowing forward towards the head, it can project urine forward. It is thought that the urine of the lobster contains important information about the sex of the lobster and its physiological state.”

Now that we know how lobsters pee out of their faces, we still need to know how and why it works this way. So, back to Snopes (which is cited below and which also has further reading at the bottom of the page for all your legit lobster urine research needs).

When male lobsters want to attract a mate, the females tend to come to him. But he needs to be in a defensive position. As Snopes says: “Their claws are located at the front, which enables the lobster to back into a shelter and face outward toward the entrance, setting up a first line of defense — and attracting a mate.”

Territorial lobster communication

Snopes also cites the conservation organization Oceana, which reports that a male lobster tends to dominate one piece of territory and females wait outside the den to mate with him. To let him know they’re out there, they pee in his direction out of the nozzles on their face.

Hey, who are we to judge?

Of course, the urine contains the pheromones that signal she’s ready to reproduce. So – and here’s another fun fact – she takes off her exoskeleton (basically stripping naked) once she gets into his den to mate. We are seriously not making this up.

Other lobster communication-by-urine tactics

Ok, so there’s one mating ritual out of the way. But females aren’t the only ones who urinate out of their faces to send a message. When males fight, the winner will do the same to signal to any nearby females that he’s the winner and ready to pass on his superior genes to any females nearby. “It’s thought that the winner of a match will also contain more serotonin and happy hormones, making him even more attractive to a would-be match.”

Snopes caps us off with yet another fun fact:

“How does a female return the favor? By peeing in his face, of course. Pheromones released in a female’s urine are thought to reduce the aggression of an embattled male and he’ll often allow the female to enter his burrow, where she might stay for up to two weeks. While the two shack up, the cohabitating female will also be urinating to ward off other ladies in the area — until it’s their turn.”

Lobsters – they’re just like us!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Lobsters ‘Pee’ Out of Their Faces. Here’s Why …” — Snopes

WTF Fun Fact 12695 – Male Mice Are Scared Of Bananas

We may have never noticed on our own that male mice harbor a fear of the humble banana. But scientists studying the fear responses of male mice to pregnant and lactating female mice made the connection.

Long story short, male mice can be very aggressive towards baby mice (or “pups), especially virgin male mice who see them as genetic competition. That’s why female mice have evolved to produce a compound, called n-pentyl acetate, in their urine that produces a stress and fear response in all male mice (but especially virgins).

Bananas enter the equation because they also happen to emit a compound that produces a fear response in male mice. They don’t contain n-pentyl acetate but rather isoamyl (or isopentyl) acetate.

Of course, bananas didn’t evolve to scare mice, that’s just a coincidence.

According to IFL Science:

“The team bought banana oil extract from the supermarket and placed it inside the cages of male mice to measure their stress levels, which increased significantly in response. The team believe that the stress response in the mice is similar to the stress response when about to engage in a fight.”

At least now we know one more strategy for getting rid of male mice! – WTF fun facts

Source: “Researchers Accidentally Discover Why Male Mice Are Scared Of Bananas” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 12586 – Using Urine to Treat Stains

Healthy urine is 95% water, 2.5% urea, and 2.5% salts, minerals, enzymes, etc. That doesn’t necessarily make it the ideal laundry detergent, but there’s plenty of historical evidence that it was used as such going all the way back to ancient Rome.

The key here is urea, which decays into ammonia. You’ll find ammonia in many household cleaners because it can cut through dirt and grease.

Even after the invention of laundry soap, some people preferred to use urine for tough stains. (Our question remains: what do you use to get out the urine stains and smell?!)

Hey, it’s free and never in short supply, so we can see why you might want to soak a particularly terrible grease stain every now and then when you had no other choice. And one would need to use stale urine to get the correct chemical reaction, so perhaps that’s easier to rinse out? We’re not sure; we’ve never tried.

Urine also had other uses back in the day – disinfecting wounds and softening leather, for example. But there’s really no reason to try this at home to see how it works.

Now, for those who continue to claim that Romans used it for whitening their teeth, we’d like to see some more evidence. The only citation for this “fact” is a poem by Catullus, famous for writing scandalous and filthy poems (and who hardly makes a factual claim).

– WTF fun facts

Source: “From Gunpowder to Teeth Whitener: The Science Behind Historic Uses of Urine” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact #12391 – A Desert Marathon Disaster

A 39-year-old former Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi decided to run in the 1994 Marathon des Sables. The 6-day race requires a 155-mile run through the Sahara Desert, but the former Olympic pentathlete felt up to the challenge.

However, a sandstorm hit the runners, and Prosperi got lost in the desert for 10 days. He survived by eating small animals such as lizards, drinking bat blood and his own urine, and covering himself in the sand at night to stay warm.

Fearing he would be declared missing and his wife wouldn’t be able to claim his life insurance for 10 years unless his body was found, he tried to cut his wrists. However, he was so dehydrated that his blood clotted immediately and he lived.

Telling his story to BBC News in 2014, he said: “My wife, Cinzia, thought I was insane – the race is so risky that you have to sign a form to say where you want your body to be sent in case you die. We had three children under the age of eight, so she was worried. I tried to reassure her. “The worst that can happen is that I get a bit sunburned.”

The race has changed since the debacle.

“These days the Marathon des Sables is a very different experience, with up to 1,300 participants it’s like a giant snake – you couldn’t get lost if you tried. But back in 1994, there were only 80 of us, and very few who were actually running, so most of the time I was on my own,” Prosperi said.

– WTF Fun Facts

Source: How I drank urine and bat blood to survive — BBC News