Spiny Lobster(Panulirus interruptus)
Contributed by TPERP John Abair Jr.
Where to find them: Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California to the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Mexico. Adult spiny lobsters make their homes in the protected crevices and caverns of coral reefs, sponge flats and large boulders. At Cabrillo, they can be found along the large boulders and other hard-bottomed areas of the Rocky Intertidal area.
What do they eat: While lobsters will eat almost anything, their favorite diet consists mostly of snails, clams, crabs, and sea urchins. They will also eat mussels when the tide is in.
Who eats them: Lobsters are eaten by sheep head, cabezon, kelp bass, octopuses, California moray eels, horn sharks, leopard sharks, rockfishes and giant sea bass.
Adaptations: It gets its name from the sharp spines attached to its exoskeleton. The absence of large pinching claws common of other lobsters is substituted by long antennae that are thickly set with sandpapery spines.
Reproduction: The lobsters spawn from March through August and female lobsters carry the bright orange eggs on their undersides until they turn brown and hatch. Adult females spawn thousands of eggs at deep water levels. Those will metamorphose into small larvae and remain at the mercy of the marine currents during approximately one year before developing into small lobsters. Spiny lobsters usually reach sexual maturity at about 6 years of age.
What’s their life like: Average lifespan is 8 to 10 years, however if one is lucky enough to evade predators they can live up to 30 years in the wild.
Interesting facts: The spiny lobster‘s outer shell serves as its skeleton, and is referred to as an exoskeleton. To grow, a lobster must shed its exoskeleton like a snake sheds its skin. The new shell will not begin to form until the old one is shed. Once the old shell is gone, a soft new cuticle, which was underneath the old shell, will inflate to a larger size than the old shell. Then it hardens, and there is space between the new shell and the tissue underneath. The animal can then grow into this space.
It takes a lobster from seven to 11 years to reach a legal size of 3.25 inches. It’s also worth pointing out that the larger they are, the more they reproduce. Exponentially so. It would be good to put some numbers to this, since it’s quite amazing. But since people like to eat them, it’s good to point out that big ones are best left to sustain the population.
Order: Decapoda which refers to crustaceans that have up to 10 legs and may include a pair of large pinching claws. Unlike the Northern or Maine Lobster (Homarus americanus) this species has no large pinching claws. The Spiny Lobster falls into one of two suborders known as Reptantia, the crawlers. The other is Natantia, the swimmers which consist of various shrimps.
Scientific Name: Panulirus interruptus
Common Name(s): Langouste or Rock lobsters
Source(s) of Information: searchyahoo.com; dixiediver.com; allkayakfishing.com; Wikipedia.org/wiki/California spiny lobster; Seashore Life of Southern California, Sam Hinton, University of California Press
Last revised 15-Jan-21