Discovered! Why a cooked lobster turns orange

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The Independent Online

Scientists have discovered why prawns, crabs and lobsters turn orange when cooked.

In the sea the creatures are able to control their colour for communication and make themselves darker for camouflage.

But when cooked, the process is disrupted, and the orange is released.

The Australian team behind the discovery say it is the first time the process has been fully understood.

Their work could help conservationists, fish farmers and may even lead to a new food colouring.

"This knowledge of how crustaceans produce and control colour helps us understand the genetic diversity and evolution that underpins this group of highly successful group of animals," Dr Nick Wade told the Australian Associated Press.

The scientist made the discovery with colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and published the findings in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The colour of lobsters, crabs and prawns is strongly linked to how attractive they are as food, with brightly coloured creatures attracting a premium price, Dr Wade said.

In future fish farmers could ensure the specific bright red carotenoid that causes the colouring, astaxanthin, found in algae, bacteria and plants, is fed to the creatures.