Spiny Lobsters: Characteristics, reproduction, habitats and more.

It is time to learn everything about the spiny lobsters, Caribbean spiny lobsters, or Panulirus Argus.

This is another species of decapod crustaceans belonging to the Palinura infraorder that usually inhabits the main reefs and mangroves located in the western region of the Atlantic Ocean.

They are also known as langustas or rock lobsters, or even crayfish in countries like Australia, Ireland and  New Zealand. The spiny lobsters don´t belong to the group of true lobsters, but there are many similarities  between two especies.

Main Characteristics of the Spiny Lobsters

Spiny Lobsters have a completely elongated body, in a cylindrical shape. However, the physical aspects that differentiate them from the others of their kind, relies in the presence of spines along their exoskeleton (outer skeleton) from the cephalothorax, to the rostrum and antennae.

Additionally, they have two pairs of white spots in the second and fourth abdominal segments, and their coloration varies from reddish to beige, which depends mainly on the soil of the location where they inhabit, and the type of food they consume.

Another outstanding aspect of this species, is given by their long antennas and the absence of large chelae (pincers).

Their strong shell covered with a lot of spines, as well as their habit of hiding in different kind of burrows, leaving outside only their long antennae, represent their main means of defense.  We invite you to read our article lobsters  to learn more about crustaceans as well as lobsters in general.

spiny lobsters : walking on the sea bed

Size

Regarding the size of the spiny lobsters, they measure approximately 20 centimeters in total length, but it has been known of specimens that measure up to 60 cm, but they are not very common.

Let´s watch them

How do Spiny Lobster Reproduce?

The spiny lobsters have a complex life cycle that includes four fundamental phases: larval (filosoma), puerulus, juvenile and adult.

This species has a larval phase which develops in the ocean; and another benthic (on a surface or floor),which is much longer and takes place in different habitats depending on their size, feeding needs, reproduction, among others.

Males and females mate in reef areas. The reproductive season of any spiny lobster can be divided into three stages: mating where the male adheres to the female a spermatic sac or plastron (similar to a black tar stain) (plastron) in the lower region of the cephalothorax.

Then begins the stage of fertilization, in which the female releases her eggs that will be adhered to her filaments on the abdominal part. A lobster can have up to 1.3 million eggs.

The last stage of reproduction corresponds to spawning, in which the egg mass changes from bright orange to dark brown, thus indicating its maturation.

Females move to deep water to release their eggs which they carry for about a month in their abdomen, until the larvae hatch or come out of the eggs. These small larvae are called phyllosomas and are very different from adults.

They float in the sea and are dragged along big distances by the currents, becoming many times in the food of other marine species. Many others die by the extreme temperatures, so only a tiny percentage of all those millions of eggs arrive at an adult age.

During their last larval stage, the lobsters undergo a very strong metamorphosis or change of appearance, and begin to swim actively, looking for places near the coast to shelter.

Approximately 2 to 2.5 years after their arrival at these sites, they reach their sexual maturity that is to say that they are able to reproduce.

Like most crustaceans, they molt their shells (exoskeletons) during the first five years of their lives. In the case of spiny lobsters these molts occur up to 25 times and are called ecdysis by biologists.

Spiny Lobsters´ Habitat and Distribution.

They are at depths of up to 90 m  is warm waters from Brazil to North Carolina, including the entire Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas, the east of South America, and Australia. where they are know as crayfish.

Spiny Lobster  tend to prefer habitats with some sort of coverage and can be found around coral reefs, artificial reefs, sponges, bridge piles, bumper wood bridge, piers, and between mangrove roots.  Spiny lobsters are nocturnal creatures, which tend to seek protection during the day.

They serve as prey for octopus, sharks and rays, but their biggest predator are the human beings .  In addition, spiny lobsters  generally prefer to stay close to the surface, although sometimes hundreds of groups line up and march along the underwater bottom in South Florida, Biscaya Bay, Card Sound and Florida Bay.

The purpose of these «migrations” is not known, but they usually occur during the fall and may be in response to declining temperatures in shallow water.

THREATS

NON-SUSTAINABLE FISHING PRACTICES, INCLUDING OVERFISHING

Spiny lobsters play an important role in the economy and consumption of the coastal communities of their habitats.

They are commonly captured commercially and recreationally as food. When trying to catch them, fishermen often catch juvenile lobsters or gravid females, with which the reproductive cycles of the species are interrupted.

Let´s watch how they catch them

DISEASES

Spiny lobsters are prone to diseases. Given their tendency to move together in large groups, a disease that initially affects only one lobster can cause damage to multiple individuals. As ecosystem conditions change, lobsters can become vulnerable to changes, making them more susceptible to any disease.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change affects spiny lobsters populations, as ecosystems change due to extreme storms and water temperatures. Changes related to climate change can also affect the food chain on which lobsters depend.

 

 

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