Spiny lobster

Last updated

Spiny lobsters
Temporal range: 110–0  Ma
California spiny lobster.JPG
Panulirus interruptus
Scientific classification

Latreille, 1802

Spiny lobsters, also known as langustas, langouste, or rock lobsters, are a family (Palinuridae) of about 60 species of achelate crustaceans, in the Decapoda Reptantia. Spiny lobsters are also, especially in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and the Bahamas, called crayfish, sea crayfish, or crawfish ("kreef" in South Africa), terms which elsewhere are reserved for freshwater crayfish. [1]



The furry lobsters (e.g.Palinurellus) were previously separated into a family of their own, the Synaxidae, but are usually considered members of the Palinuridae. [2] The slipper lobsters (Scyllaridae) are their next-closest relatives, and these two or three families make up the Achelata. [2] Genera of spiny lobsters include Palinurus and a number of anagrams thereof: [3] Panulirus, Linuparus, etc. (Palinurus was also a helmsman in Virgil's Æneid .) In total, 12 extant genera are recognised, containing around 60 living species: [4] [5]


Jasus edwardsii Jasus edwardsii.jpg
Jasus edwardsii

Although they superficially resemble true lobsters in terms of overall shape and having a hard carapace and exoskeleton, the two groups are not closely related. Spiny lobsters can be easily distinguished from true lobsters by their very long, thick, spiny antennae, by the lack of chelae (claws) on the first four pairs of walking legs, although the females of most species have a small claw on the fifth pair, [6] and by a particularly specialized larval phase called phyllosoma. True lobsters have much smaller antennae and claws on the first three pairs of legs, with the first being particularly enlarged.

Spiny lobsters have typically a slightly compressed carapace, lacking any lateral ridges. Their antennae lack a scaphocerite, the flattened exopod of the antenna. This is fused to the epistome (a plate between the labrum and the basis of the antenna). The flagellum, at the top of the antenna, is stout, tapering, and very long. The ambulatory legs (pereopods) end in claws (chelae). [7]

Fossil record

The fossil record of spiny lobsters has been extended by the discovery in 1995 of a 110-million-year-old fossil near El Espiñal in Chiapas, Mexico. Workers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico have named the fossil Palinurus palaecosi, and report that it is closest to members of the genus Palinurus currently living off the coasts of Africa. [8]


Fishing for Panulirus argus in Venezuela Pesca de Langosta con Nasa en Los Roques, Venezuela.jpg
Fishing for Panulirus argus in Venezuela

Spiny lobsters are found in almost all warm seas, including the Caribbean and the Mediterranean Sea, but are particularly common in Australasia, where they are referred to commonly as crayfish or sea crayfish ( Jasus edwardsii ), [9] and in South Africa ( Jasus lalandii ).

Spiny lobsters tend to live in crevices of rocks and coral reefs, only occasionally venturing out at night to seek snails, clams, sea-hares, [10] crabs, or sea urchins to eat. Sometimes, they migrate in very large groups in long files of lobsters across the sea floor. These lines may be more than 50 lobsters long. Spiny lobsters navigate using the smell and taste of natural substances in the water that change in different parts of the ocean. It was recently discovered that spiny lobsters can also navigate by detecting the Earth's magnetic field. [11] They keep together by contact, using their long antennae. [12] Potential predators may be deterred from eating spiny lobsters by a loud screech made by the antennae of the spiny lobsters rubbing against a smooth part of the exoskeleton. [13] Spiny lobsters usually exhibit the social habit of being together. However recent studies indicate that healthy lobsters move away from infected ones, leaving the diseased lobsters to fend for themselves. [14]

Like true lobsters, spiny lobsters are edible and are an economically significant food source; they are the biggest food export of the Bahamas, for instance. [15]


Many spiny lobsters produce rasping sounds to repel predators by rubbing the "plectrum" at the base of the spiny lobster's antennae against a "file". The noise is produced by frictional vibrations - sticking and slipping, similar to rubber materials sliding against hard surfaces. [16] While a number of insects use frictional vibration mechanisms to generate sound, this particular acoustic mechanism is unique in the animal kingdom. Significantly, the system does not rely on the hardness of the exoskeleton, as many other arthropod sounds do, meaning that the spiny lobsters can continue to produce the deterrent noises even in the period following a moult when they are most vulnerable. [17] The stridulating organ is present in all but three genera in the family ( Jasus , Projasus , and the furry lobster Palinurellus ), [18] and its form can distinguish different species. [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

California spiny lobster species of crustacean

The California spiny lobster is a species of spiny lobster found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California to the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Mexico. It typically grows to a length of 30 cm (12 in) and is a reddish-brown color with stripes along the legs, and has a pair of enlarged antennae but no claws. The interrupted grooves across the tail are characteristic for the species.

<i>Jasus edwardsii</i> species of crustacean

Jasus edwardsii, the southern rock lobster, red rock lobster, or spiny rock lobster, is a species of spiny lobster found throughout coastal waters of southern Australia and New Zealand including the Chatham Islands. This species is commonly called crayfish or crays in both Australia and New Zealand and kōura in Māori. They resemble lobsters, but lack the large characteristic pincers on the first pair of walking legs.

Lobster fishing

Lobsters are widely fished around the world for their meat. They are often hard to catch in large numbers, but their large size can make them a profitable catch. Although the majority of the targeted species are tropical, the majority of the global catch is in temperate waters.

Achelata infraorder of decapods

The Achelata is an infra-order of the decapod crustaceans, holding the spiny lobsters, slipper lobsters and their fossil relatives.

Slipper lobster family of crustaceans

Slipper lobsters are a family (Scyllaridae) of about 90 species of achelate crustaceans, in the Decapoda Reptantia, found in all warm oceans and seas. They are not true lobsters, but are more closely related to spiny lobsters and furry lobsters. Slipper lobsters are instantly recognisable by their enlarged antennae, which project forward from the head as wide plates. All the species are edible, and some, such as the Moreton Bay bug and the Balmain bug are of commercial importance.

Astacidea Taxon of crustaceans

The Astacidea are a group of decapod crustaceans including lobsters, crayfish, and their close relatives.

<i>Panulirus cygnus</i> species of crustacean

Panulirus cygnus is a species of spiny lobster, found off the west coast of Australia. Panulirus cygnus is the basis of Australia's most valuable fishery, making up 20% of value of Australia's total fishing industry, and is identified as the western rock lobster.

Palibythus magnificus, sometimes called the musical furry lobster, is a species of furry lobster found in Polynesia. It is generally included in the family Palinuridae, although it has also been separated from that family with the genus Palinurellus to form the family Synaxidae in the past. The species is known in Samoan as ula moana, a name which also covers the deep-water shrimp Heterocarpus laevigatus.

<i>Panulirus</i> genus of crustaceans

Panulirus is a genus of spiny lobsters in the family Palinuridae, including those species which have long flagella on their first antennae.

<i>Palinurus elephas</i> species of crustacean

Palinurus elephas is a commonly caught species of spiny lobster from the East Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Its common names include European spiny lobster, crayfish or cray, common spiny lobster, Mediterranean lobster and red lobster.

<i>Panulirus argus</i> species of crustacean

Panulirus argus, the Caribbean spiny lobster, is a species of spiny lobster that lives on reefs and in mangrove swamps in the western Atlantic Ocean.

<i>Panulirus versicolor</i> species of crustacean

Panulirus versicolor is a species of spiny lobster that lives in tropical reefs in the Indo-Pacific. Other names include painted rock lobster, common rock lobster, bamboo lobster, blue lobster, and blue spiny lobster. P. versicolor is one of the three most common varieties of spiny lobster in Sri Lanka, alongside Panulirus homarus and Panulirus ornatus.

<i>Jasus</i> genus of crustaceans

Jasus is a genus of spiny lobsters which live in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. They have two distinct "horns" projecting from the front of the carapace, but lack the stridulating organs present in almost all other genera of spiny lobsters. Like all spiny lobsters, they lack claws, and have long stout antennae which are quite flexible.


The phyllosoma is the larval stage of spiny, slipper and coral lobsters, and represents one of the most significant characteristics that unify them into the taxon Achelata. Its body is remarkably thin, flat, and transparent, with long legs.

<i>Sagmariasus</i> species of crustacean

Sagmariasus verreauxi is a species of spiny lobster that lives around northern New Zealand, the Kermadec Islands the Chatham Islands and Australia from Queensland to Tasmania. It is probably the longest decapod crustacean in the world, alongside the American lobster Homarus americanus, growing to lengths of up to 60 centimetres (24 in).

<i>Scyllarides latus</i> species of crustacean

Scyllarides latus, the Mediterranean slipper lobster, is a species of slipper lobster found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It is edible and highly regarded as food, but is now rare over much of its range due to overfishing. Adults may grow to 1 foot (30 cm) long, are camouflaged, and have no claws. They are nocturnal, emerging from caves and other shelters during the night to feed on molluscs. As well as being eaten by humans, S. latus is also preyed upon by a variety of bony fish. Its closest relative is S. herklotsii, which occurs off the Atlantic coast of West Africa; other species of Scyllarides occur in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific. The larvae and young animals are largely unknown.

<i>Panulirus pascuensis</i> species of crustacean

Panulirus pascuensis is a species of spiny lobster found around Easter Island and the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is known in English as the Easter Island spiny lobster and in Spanish as Langosta de Isla de Pascua. This lobster is fished on a small scale for local consumption.

<i>Palinurus mauritanicus</i> species of crustacean

Palinurus mauritanicus is a species of spiny lobster. It is found in deep waters in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the western Mediterranean Sea.

<i>Panulirus ornatus</i> species of crustacean

Panulirus ornatus is a large edible spiny lobster with 11 larval stages that has been successfully bred in captivity.

Jasus paulensis, also commonly known as the St Paul rock lobster, is a species of spiny lobster found in the waters around Saint Paul Island in the southern Indian Ocean and around Tristan da Cunha in the southern Atlantic Ocean. At one time the rock lobsters on Tristan da Cunha were believed to be a separate species known as the Tristan rock lobster, but the use of mitochondrial DNA sequencing has shown them to be identical. Some authorities, for example the International Union for Conservation of Nature, retain them as separate species. The Tristan rock lobster features on the coat of arms and the flag of Tristan da Cunha.


  1. Harold W. Sims Jr. (1965). "Let's call the spiny lobster "spiny lobster"". Crustaceana . 8 (1): 109–110. doi:10.1163/156854065X00613. JSTOR   20102626.
  2. 1 2 Ferran Palero; Keith A. Crandall; Pere Abelló; Enrique Macpherson & Marta Pascual (2009). "Phylogenetic relationships between spiny, slipper and coral lobsters (Crustacea, Decapoda, Achelata)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution . 50 (1): 152–162. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.10.003. PMID   18957325. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-08.
  3. R. N. Lipcius & D. B. Eggleston (2000). "Introduction: Eecology and fishery biology of spiny lobsters". In Bruce F. Phillips & J. Kittaka (eds.). Spiny Lobsters: Fisheries and Culture (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 1–42. ISBN   978-0-85238-264-6.
  4. Shane T. Ahyong; James K. Lowry; Miguel Alonso; Roger N. Bamber; Geoffrey A. Boxshall; Peter Castro; Sarah Gerken; Gordan S. Karaman; Joseph W. Goy; Diana S. Jones; Kenneth Meland; D. Christopher Rogers & Jörundur Svavarsson (2011). "Subphylum Crustacea Brünnich, 1772" (PDF). In Z.-Q. Zhang (ed.). Animal biodiversity: an outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness. Zootaxa . 3148. pp. 165–191.
  5. Michael Türkay (2011). "Palinuridae". WoRMS. World Register of Marine Species . Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  6. Lipke Holthuis (1991). "Glossary". FAO species catalogue Vol. 13: Marine Lobsters of the World. Food and Agriculture Organization. ISBN   92-5-103027-8.
  7. P. J. Hayward & J. S. Ryland (1996). Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford University Press. p. 430. ISBN   0-19-854055-8.
  8. Victoria Jaggard (May 3, 2007). "Photo in the news: oldest lobster fossil found in Mexico". National Geographic.
  9. Sue Wesson (2005). "Murni Dhungang Jirrar Living in the Illawarra - Aboriginal people and wild resource use" (PDF). Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. p. 22.
  10. Derby, Charles D.; Kicklighter, Cynthia E.; Johnson, P. M. & Xu Zhang (29 March 2007). "Chemical Composition of Inks of Diverse Marine Molluscs Suggests Convergent Chemical Defenses". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 2007 (33): 1105–1113. doi:10.1007/s10886-007-9279-0. PMID   17393278. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  11. John D. Cutnell & Kenneth W. Johnson (2007). Physics (7th ed.). p. 1088. ISBN   978-0-471-66315-7.
  12. The Miles Kelly Book of Life. Great Bardfield, Essex: Miles Kelly Publishing. 2006.
  13. John Roach (July 28, 2004). "Decoding spiny lobsters' violin-like screech". National Geographic News.
  14. "Lobsters have innate way to stay healthy, ODU researchers say in Nature article". Old Dominion University News. May 24, 2006. Archived from the original on September 10, 2006.
  15. "The 'spiny' focus of fisheries". InternationalReports.net. 2003. Archived from the original on November 21, 2008.
  16. Meyer-Rochow V.B.; Penrose J. (1977). "Sound production by the Western rock lobster Panulirus longipes". Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 23: 191–210. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(76)90141-6.
  17. S. N. Patek & J. E. Baio (2007). "The acoustic mechanics of stick-slip friction in the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus)" (PDF). Journal of Experimental Biology . 210 (20): 3538–3546. doi:10.1242/jeb.009084. PMID   17921155.
  18. Lipke Holthuis (1991). FAO species catalogue Vol. 13: Marine Lobsters of the World. Food and Agriculture Organization. ISBN   92-5-103027-8.
  19. Adam Summers (2001). "The Lobster's Violin". American Museum of Natural History . Retrieved January 11, 2012.