PITTSBURGH – He could be older than Warner Bros. studio, General Motors and the Boy Scouts. He could have survived two world wars and Prohibition. He could have been dinner.
He's Bubba, a 22-pound leviathan of a lobster pulled from the waters off Nantucket, Mass., and shipped to a Pittsburgh fish market.
"It is overwhelming," owner Bob Wholey said. "If you see it, you will never forget it. Customers are just in awe."
On Tuesday, Wholey gave the lobster to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium (search), which will send him to an aquarium at a Ripley's Believe It or Not (search) museum.
Based on how long it typically takes a lobster to reach eating size — about five to seven years to grow to a pound — Bubba may be 100 years old.
That would make the crustacean older than Warner Bros. (1907), the Boy Scouts (1910) and the states of Arizona and New Mexico (1912), not to mention the first commercial radio station (1920), television (1927) and computers (1943).
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (search) sent Wholey a letter asking him to work with the group to release Bubba back in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine.
Another group calling itself People for Eating Tasty Animals (search) reportedly offered Wholey a hefty price for the lobster. At Tuesday's price of $14.98 a pound, Bubba would retail for about $350.
Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine's Lobster Institute (search), is skeptical and estimates that Bubba is likely 50 years old, but doesn't know for sure. Warm water and plenty of food may have more to do with a lobster's size than how long it's been alive.
"We have looked at all kinds of things to figure out if there is any way to age a lobster. I'm guessing 100 years is probably too high but I can't argue with it because you don't know," Bayer said.
No matter his age, Bubba dwarfs a typical 1½-pound lobster. He's about three feet long and took up about half a 4-foot-by-4-foot tank at Wholey's Market. A lobster sharing his tank was about as big as one of Bubba's claws.
A handful of people who wandered by the tank Tuesday were impressed. One woman quietly said, "Wow," while a man said, "He's serious."
Although his business is to sell seafood, Wholey says Bubba was never bound to be boiled and buttered. And he's become a little philosophical after seeing the lobster, which could be twice his 54 years.
"I don't think you could eat something that big. ... What range of emotions does a lobster have? Greed? Lust? Love? I'm just going to give him to the zoo and hope he lives another 100 years," Wholey said.
"If you sat down and ate this thing, wouldn't that be a bit shellfish?"