Unexpected Blue


Standing up to my knees in the icy waters of a northern lake, I gaze at distant mountains framed by the infinite blue of a summer sky. I’ve returned to Vermont to celebrate the solstice with my family, and the ritual of decades begins with testing the temperature of the water as I acknowledge the power of the landscape. And yes, as usual, the lake is too cold for swimming. I take another step out and slip a little on the rocks. Through the clear water, I am surprised to see a piece of the blue sky sitting in the sand. I bend to look closer and discover a crayfish, its blue claws setting it apart from the surrounding stones. With a little research I learn this is the virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis), a common denizen of northern streams and lakes. The blue pigment is caused by proteins and may be part of a phase in its growth, but apparently it doesn’t occur in all virile crayfish. This one is lucky to get those beautiful, sky blue claws that perfectly complement its sandy brown body. Nature at work doesn’t need a design degree! I’m not sure what advantage the blue claws give the crayfish, but they certainly have delighted me.