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How large can lobsters grow? Big! But no one knows how big.

Lobsters can grow to be four feet long, 40 pounds, and maybe 100 years old – maybe even more.

In this June 1 photo Skipper Landon Shand, left, and crewmember Lorne Pace show off a 23 lb. male lobster they caught on their final run of the closing day of Southwestern Nova Scotia's lobster season in Yarmouth, N.S.

Brian Medel-Halifax Chronicle-Herald/The Canadian Press/AP

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With New England diving into lobster season, seafood lovers across the country will don their bibs, grab some lemon wedges, and dine on nice one-pound crustaceans.

Most lobsters in supermarkets and restaurants fall in the one- to two-pound range. American law requires fishermen to toss back anything smaller. But lobsters can get bigger – much bigger.

In 2006, a diver caught a 12-pound, 20-inch lobster off the coast of San Diego. In 2008, a Canadian crew snagged a 20-pounder. Yet both of those were pipsqueaks compared with the late king of crustaceans. The Guinness World Record went to a 44.3-pound lobster found in 1977 near Nova Scotia. Guinness didn't note its length, but the US Navy once measured a similarly hefty lobster at four feet long.

These clawed colossi aren't freaks or flukes, explains Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at Boston University. They're just very old.

Lobsters, he says, seem to never stop growing. Their crustacean cousins, crabs, reach a point at which the carapace (the outer shell) simply will not grow any larger. But nature never hemmed in lobsters.


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