The little hands were eager to touch, to feel, to investigate the varied sealife being offered up to them close and personal during the First Sunday Science Program -- "Lobsters: More Than Just Dinner!" at the Bruce Museum Seaside Center on Greenwich Point.
"We have one male and one female lobster," said co-naturalist Max Barresi, holding up before curious eyes a 6- to 7-year- old lobster.
Looking into the sealife tank was 4-year- old Ben Rein, being steadied by his grandfather, Greenwich plastic surgeon Dr. Joel Rein. Handed a clam to hold, the boy was told by his grandfather to count the rings of the shell to determine its age.
"This one is 19 years old," said Dr. Rein.
"So which one lives longer, a clam or an oyster?" someone asks.
"A clam lives longer than an oyster," said Roger Bowgen, who chairs the Town of Greednwich's Shellfish Commission. Bowgen reached into the tank and pulled out a double oyster, explaining how one oyster had "set" upon another. "Oysters are cleaning up the water," he added, "An oyster will filter 50 gallons of water a day."
Listening hard was 12-year-old Richie Consiglio. "He's a favorite visitor," said Barresi.
"I want to be a marine biologist," explained Consiglio.
Crabs of every size and color were also touched and held. "The English crab came here 300 years ago," said Barresi. "But now it is threatened by the more recent arrival (90 years ago) of a Japanese shore crab."
A Mole crab was one of the "weird species" spotted this year, said Barresi. "It's not common in our estuaries."
Showing how to measure a "keeper" lobster was Capt. Gus Bertoff, a commercial lobsterman. "You measure the back from the eye socket to the beginning of the tail," he demonstrated. Bertoff has been lobstering in local waters for 38 years, he said, but he's noticing, "People are not eating lobsters like they did years ago."
And that's a good thing -- well, for the lobsters, anyway.