Have you ever wondered if Sebastian from The Little Mermaid is a crab or a lobster? I did too a while ago. But then I decided to look a bit more into this whole crab lobster controversy.
People have been wondering from the start why Sebastian has this kind of lobster look. And even Disney themselves seemed a bit confused at times. Even though they stated that Sebastian is a crab, the Disney store actually sold a Sebastian plushy called “Sebastian the lobster” for a while. So, what is Sebastian from the Little Mermaid really?
Sebastian is a crab and not a lobster because his physical features like missing lobster tail and antennae, his small size and his red color make it impossible that he is a lobster. He, among others, even calls himself a crab in The Little Mermaid movie.
There are actually a lot of indications that support the claim that Sebastian is a crab. So, here are the 11 reasons I found, why Sebastian is definitely a crab.
1. He does not have a lobster tail
Altogether, their body shape looks quite different though. The crab is more round while the lobster has a very elongated body, which brings us to the next point.
This is probably the most obvious difference between a crab and a lobster: the crab does not have a tail. And since Sebastian does not have a tail either, he can’t be a lobster.
Other than that crabs and lobster also have something in common: they both have a shell and 5 pairs of legs of which 4 are walking legs and the one in the front are the claws (pincers).
2. He does not have lobster antennae
Crustaceans like crabs and lobsters generally have two pairs of antennae (also called “feelers”) in front of their mouths meaning they have 4 antennae – 2 short and 2 long ones.
In lobsters, the long pair is very prominent and big because they are sensors that are necessary to orientate in the murky environments they live in at the bottom of the ocean. They need them because they walk along the ocean floor at night in search of food. Their small antennae are also called antennules and are used for smelling.
As you can see in the picture, the lobster has really long antennae. But Sebastian has no visible antennae at all. Because the antennae are so important for lobsters, it would be strange to leave them out of the drawings of Sebastian.
Crabs do however have pretty small antennae, to begin with, and in some species, they are so small that you can’t really see them at all.
3. If he were a bright red lobster he would be dead
If Sebastian really were a lobster, his bright red color would be a serious reason for concern because lobsters only ever turn that red when they are cooked!
Normally they have a greenish-brown or bluish-green color as you can see on the living lobster on the left side of the picture. This helps them blend in with the ocean floor, so predators can’t find them as easily. On the right side, you can see what a lobster looks like when it is cooked.
This shift in color is caused by a pigment called astaxanthin that is found in the shells of lobsters and crabs. When they are alive the pigment is stored inside a membrane in the shell, but when they are cooked the membrane breaks due to the heat and the red pigment becomes visible.
The point here is that that means that Sebastian would be kind of a zombie lobster if he were such a bright red lobster. There are however many naturally red crabs, meaning he can easily be a bright red crab without having to be cooked to achieve that complexion.
4. There are lobsters in The Little Mermaid but they look different compared to Sebastian
During the scene of Sebastian’s song “Under the Sea” we see all kinds of fish and sea creatures come together to sing. And there are even lobsters: One blue lobster and five normal brown lobsters.
How do I know they are lobsters? Have a look at the following video. As I described in points 1 and 2, lobsters have long antennas and a tail, which crabs both don’t have.
The blue lobster can be seen playing the drums at 0:51 and the brown lobsters can be seen singing and dancing at 2:39.
If you look more closely at the blue lobster you can see the difference to Sebastian very well when they both play the shell dumbs together. First of all, he is much bigger, probably three times as big as Sebastian.
Because of this, his claws are much bigger as well. It looks like one claw is almost as big as the whole of Sebastian. You can also see clearly that he has a long tail with many segments and long blue antennas.
Another difference is that the lobster has stalked eyes that are separate from his head, while Sebastian’s eyes are set in his head.
Why is he blue though? The blue coloration in some lobsters is actually caused by a very rare genetic defect. Because of this defect, they produce more of a certain protein than they normally would, which results in the blue color.
It is estimated that only one in every two million lobsters is blue. Other rare colors include orange and yellow.
The other lobsters in the video are however ordinary lobsters in a brownish color. Except for the color, they seem to look the same as the blue one.
This shows that Disney definitely made a clear distinction between crabs and lobsters and that Sebastian differs quite a bit from the lobsters.
5. Lobsters in the Caribbean do not have claws like Sebastian
We know that Sebastian comes from the Caribbean, to be exact from Jamaica. So if he were a lobster, he most likely would be a Caribbean lobster.
But there is a slight problem: Caribbean lobsters, also called the Caribbean spiny lobster, look even more different to Sebastian than the regular American or European lobsters do. They have huge horn-like antennae, as you can see in the picture, and they don’t even have front claws!
But since Sebastian does have claws and no antennae, he can’t possibly be a lobster from the Caribbean.
Additionally, the Caribbean lobster’s color differs from most other lobsters. They have a reddish-brown shell that is covered with several dark and cream-colored spots. Sebastian is however only red.
6. Lobsters can’t live outside of the water
In the movie we see Sebastian live in the ocean but he also follows Ariel on land and into Prince Eric’s castle where he spends days outside of the water. So he must be able to breathe both in the water and on land.
There are no lobster species that can live on land though. They all live in the water and can only survive on land for a short time if they stay in a moist and cool place where their gills can stay moist so they can extract some oxygen from the air to the water on their gills.
Some crabs can however permanently live on land and some crab species are able to survive on both land and water for long periods of time. They do need to keep their gills moist as well though if they roam the land.
7. There are a lot of red crab species living in the Caribbean
So if Sebastian cannot be a lobster from the Caribbean, he must be a certain kind of Caribbean crab that can live in the water and on land, doesn’t he? So let’s have a quick look at the Caribbean crab species that come into consideration.
There are a red ocean crab and a red land crab that live in and around Jamaica: the Caribbean king crab and the red land crab (like the Gecarcinus ruricola). But both of them don’t really inhabit both the land and sea and also don’t look similar enough to Sebastian, in my opinion.
The Caribbean king crab, which is also called Caribbean spider crab, has legs that are way too long and the red land crab looks too dark. Another red terrestrial crab is the Caribbean hermit crab. Some people believe Sebastian could be one but there is a problem.
Sebastian is not a Caribbean hermit crab because hermit crabs live in abandoned sea snail shells but Sebastian does not carry such a seashell on his back. When hermit crabs are outside of their shell they also look more like lobsters with a vulnerable tail but Sebastian has a normal crab body.
So, what kind of crab is Sebastian?
There are however two crab species that are semiterrestrial, meaning they live on the seashore and are able to stay in both the ocean and on land.
One crab that lives on beaches in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, and reminds me of Sebastian is the ghost crab (sometimes also called sand crab).
The ghost crabs are tiny red or yellowish semiterrestrial crabs that got their name from being nocturnal and being able to disappear in the deep burrows of sand they dig on the beaches – like tiny ghosts.
They can live on land and on water, but they can’t stay in the water for too long. The only thing that is different from Sebastian is that the ghost crabs have stalked eyes. But altogether, I think these tiny crabs look a lot like him.
The second semiterrestrial crab is the Sally Lightfoot crab which is also called red rock crab.
Their looks and their “dancing talent” actually remind me a lot of Sebastian. This crab lives at the seashore where it is often seen jumping through the shallow waters like a dancer (hence its name) in order to escape from predators like moray eels. You can watch a video of them dancing over the water here on Youtube.
They are more of a water crab but have adapted to be able to also breathe on land by holding water in their shell and pouring water over their gills every once in a while. Thus they can easily spend a lot of time on land, like on rocks on which they feed.
It doesn’t actually live directly in Jamaica, but in the Galapagos Islands and on the west coast of Central and South America. But you could argue that the west coast of Central America is actually quite close to Jamaica.
In fact, the distance from the Panama canal, which they might have to cross, to Jamaica is equal to a one-hour trip by plane. It would surely be manageable for Sebastian and his family to swim such a short distance if he can even swim to Europe or to Trinidad, where he went to college according to the Little Mermaid series. It would be a piece of
So, in conclusion:
Sebastian is likely a ghost crab or a Sally Lightfoot crab. Both live in the Caribbean, like Jamaica, or very close by. It is also possible that Disney combined characteristics of both these or other crab species since they are known for taking inspiration to create their own kind of fictional characters.
8. He is so small that he fits into Ariels hands
Crabs are much smaller than lobsters, at least most of them. When Ariel gets her legs and Sebastian consequently has a small mental breakdown, she picks him up. You can see how tiny he looks in her hands.
In the following video you can see what I mean (at 3:53 min).
The same happens when King Triton and Chef Louis pick him up in their hands. At 6:37 min you can also see Sebastian standing next to a hairbrush. He looks so tiny!
Now, imagine holding a lobster in your hands like this. It simply wouldn’t be possible because lobsters are too long and big.
9. Chef Louis calls him a “succulent crab”
When Sebastian finds himself in the kitchen of Chef Louis, the chef spots him and gets the dangerous idea to add him to the dish he is making.
The moment he finds Sebastian, he sings “Sacre bleu, what is this, how on earth could I miss such a sweet little succulent crab“ and throws him into a bowl with sauce.
Click on the video to watch that part of the kitchen scene (at 1:00 min).
Chef Louis obviously refers to Sebastian’s juicy crab meat, which sounds very scary actually. But what this scene shows us, is that a professional cook can classify Sebastian as a crab in a split second. And Louis most certainly knows the difference between a crab and a lobster.
10. He calls his parents “Mr. and Mrs. Crab”
In the 2nd episode of season 3 called “King Crab”, his parents visit him, after he wrote them several letters in which he bragged about his important work making them believe he is the king of Atlantica. When they arrive he introduces them to Ariel and the others saying the following:
“Hey everybody, I’d like you to meet my mom and dad, Mr. and Mrs. Crab.”
There are a few more occasions in the series when it becomes clear that Sebastian is a crab. For example in episode 7 of season 2 called “Tail of Two Crabs” he meets his old arch-rival – another crab named Zeus who calls himself the “crab of the year”.
11. Sebastian says he is a crab
Sebastian actually refers to himself as a crab in the movie. Right after Ariel got her legs, Sebastian throws a temper, moaning about how King Triton will react to these news. That’s when he says the following:
“This is a catastrophe! What would her father say? I’ll tell you what her father’d say, he’d say he’s gonna kill himself a crab, that’s what her father’d say! I’m gonna march myself straight home right now and tell him just like I should’ve done the minute… and don’t you shake your head at me, young lady.“
You can watch the scene here.
So Sebastian basically refers to himself as a crab, saying King Triton will kill him (the crab) if he finds out what happened to Ariel.
12. Disney say he is a crab
Even Disney themselves have stated on the Disney website and other places that he is a crab.
Conclusion – What is Sebastian from The Little Mermaid?
At first, I thought he might be a lobster. But after finding all these clues, I think it is quite obvious that Sebastian can only be a crab.
The reason why he looks somewhat lobster-like is probably the fact that his head is a bit elongated which looks more like a lobster than a crab trait at first view.
But try and imagine him with a flat face like a real crab. There would be no room for his facial expressions at all – or his teeth!
So it only makes sense that Sebastian, as the anthropomorphic (humanized) crab he is, would have received a somewhat human face by Disney so he can sing and express himself more freely. If you keep that in mind, I think it becomes very easy to see his crabbiness.