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Sea Stats - Spiny Lobster

Sea Stats - Spiny Lobster

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The beautifully marked Caribbean spiny lobster has long been a favorite Florida seafood and is one of our most important fisheries. As a result, marine conservation laws have been implemented to protect this valuable species from being overexploited.

This brochures discusses the Caribbean spiny lobster, also known as a crayfish, crawfish, langosta, and Florida lobster. Topics include a description of the lobster's appearance, life history, range and habitat, and management efforts.
The beautifully marked Caribbean spiny lobster has long been a favorite Florida seafood and is one of our most important fisheries. As a result, marine conservation laws have been implemented to protect this valuable species from being overexploited.

This brochures discusses the Caribbean spiny lobster, also known as a crayfish, crawfish, langosta, and Florida lobster. Topics include a description of the lobster's appearance, life history, range and habitat, and management efforts.

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12/03/2010

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T
he beautiully marked Caribbeanspiny lobster has long been a avoriteFlorida seaood and is one o ourmost important sheries. As a result,marine conservation laws have beenimplemented to protect this valuablespecies rom being overexploited, andmanagement eorts are continuallybeing examined to ensure thesustainability o this shery.
Description
The Caribbean spiny lobster (
Panulirus argus
) is acrustacean closely related to crabs, shrimp, andcraysh. Common names or this lobster includecraysh, crawsh, langosta, and Florida lobster. Thereare about 12 species o lobster in Florida; Caribbeanspiny lobsters are by ar the largest and most abundant.They vary rom whitish to a dark red-orange. The twolarge, cream-colored spots on top o the secondsegment o the tail section are the diagnostic eaturesor identiying this species. There are also two smallercream-colored spots adjacent to the tail an. Spinylobsters lack the large, distinctive, crushing claws otheir northern cousins, the American lobster.The name “spiny” comes rom the strong, orward-curving spines projecting rom the hard shell that coversthe body and antennae o the lobster. The spines act asprotection rom predators and canpresent a hazard to anyone handling theanimal without wearing gloves. Thereare two large prominent spines,sometimes called horns, above theeyes.A spiny lobster’s body has twomain parts: the cephalothorax (headsection) and the abdomen (tail section).The cephalothorax comprises the head,a cape-like carapace or shell, themouthparts, antennae, antennules(smaller antennae-like structures), and ten walkinglegs. Spiny lobsters wave their long, spiny antennaelike whips or ghting and deense. They use the shorterantennules to sense movement and detect chemicalsin the water. The lobster’s mouth, located on theunderside o and toward the ront o the cephalothorax,is surrounded by large, heavy structures calledmandibles, or jaws, and by maxillipeds, or accessoryjaws. Both sets o jaws are used or biting and grindingood and directing it into the mouth.The abdomen, or tail section, is narrower than thecephalothorax. The shell covering the tail section isdivided into six ring-like segments, and each segmentends in a spine on each side. Under the tail are ourpairs o small lea-like structures called pleopods (orswimmerets). The tail ends in a fat, fexible an with abroad center section—the telson—and has two lobes
SPINY LOBSTER
Mysterious Crustaceanof the Caribbean
Common Name
Craysh, Crawsh, Langosta, and Florida Lobster
Scientific Name
 
Panulirus argus
Size
 
Maximum size approximately 9–10 inches carapace length (15–20 pounds)
Range
 
In the tropical and subtropical waters o the South Atlantic, Gul o Mexico, and theCaribbean Sea
Habitat
Hardbottom, seagrass, and coral rees o South Florida and Caribbean
Regular Season
August 6 to March 31; sport season or recreational harvest during the lastWednesday and successive Thursday o July o each year.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFish and Wildlife Research Institute
 
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on each side o the telson called uropods. This angenerates the thrust needed or the animal to “tailfip”—a rapid backward escape mechanism that presentsan armored, thorny ront to any potential enemy.To determine the sex o a spiny lobster, examinethe underside o the cephalothorax and tail section. Atthe base o the th pair o the male’s walking legs areopenings called sperm ducts, which become greatlyenlarged during the breeding season. Also, the secondwalking legs o mature males are much longer than theother walking legs. The th pair o a emale’s walkinglegs have hook-like structures at the tips, but her secondlegs are not longer than the others. On a male, thepleopods beneath the tail section are single and paddle-like. Each pleopod on a emale has two lobes; one lobeis paddle-like, and the other lobe resembles smallpincers.
Life History
The peak mating and spawning season o the Caribbeanspiny lobster is between March and July. When lobstersmate, the male deposits a sperm packet, orspermatophore, on the underside o the emale betweenher ourth and th walking legs. The sperm packet isa light, pinkish-gray when deposited and darkens toblack as the covering develops; because o the darkcolor, it is commonly called a “tarspot.” When readyto ertilize her eggs, the emale scratches thespermatophore with the little hook on her th walkingleg to release sperm when she discharges eggs romher oviducts. The ertilized eggs attach to long hairscalled “setae” on the pincer-like lobes o her pleopods.During the three-week incubation period, the orangeegg mass becomes dark brown as the developingyoung use up the yolks. A emale lobster carrying eggsis said to be “berried.”A emale lobster with a three-inch carapace canrelease about 250,000 eggs per spawn, and a emalewith a our-inch carapace can produce over a millioneggs. Large lobsters typically spawn two or threetimes during the annual mating season; smalleranimals may spawn only once a year.A spiny lobster begins lie looking nothing at alllike an adult. A newly hatched lobster enters the worldas a tiny, fat, spider-like larva called a phyllosome andis transparent except or pigment in the eyes. Thenewly hatched larval lobster drits in the ocean, eeding
antennaswimmerets(pleopods)walkinglegs(pereopods)carapace
      a
        b
      d
    o
   m
     e
    n
Lobster art by James SeagleTail fan art by Diane Rome Peebles
antennuleseyestalktelsonuropods
TAIL FAN
 
on other tiny driting animals (plankton). Carried byocean currents, the driting phyllosome passes through11 developmental stages beore nally changing into atransparent, swimming, lobster-like orm called thepuerulus. Scientists have long thought this larval stagelasts as long as 9 months, but in 2005
P. argus
larvaewere reared by one lobster scientist rom a phyllosometo a puerulus in 142 days.The puerulus does not eed at all; its mission is toswim rom the open ocean to nearshore waters andnd a place to settle, preerably in clumps o red algaein a hardbottom area. Occasionally, the puerulus willsettle in seagrass. By the time the puerulus has ounda suitable habitat, it has begun to develop brown andwhite markings as camoufage. Within a week osettling, the puerulus molts and develops into a juvenilespiny lobster.A juvenile lobster eeds at night on crustaceansand mollusks and hides during daylight hours, anocturnal pattern that continues throughout adulthood.As the lobster grows, it molts. When a lobster molts,a line along each side o the carapace splits and thesot, fexible animal backs out through the opening.The sot, vulnerable animal quickly absorbs water andexpands beore the new, and larger, exoskeletonhardens. The process o molting and acquiring a newexoskeleton takes about two days.About three months ater settling, with a carapacelength o about one inch (2.5 cm), a juvenile leaves thealgal clumps or a hardbottom habitat o sponges,solution holes (mini-sinkholes), and small coral heads.About two years ater the puerulus settles, the lobsterhas reached a carapace length o about three inches.Sexual maturity is also reached around this time.As spiny lobsters mature, they migrate seaward tooshore rees. In remote areas or when protected romshing, spiny lobsters can grow to over 15 pounds andmay live or 20 years.
Range and Habitat
Caribbean spiny lobsters are widely distributedthroughout the tropical and subtropical waters o theAtlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gul o Mexico,inhabiting the seas around Bermuda, the West Indies,and southern Florida. They have been reported as arnorth as Beauort, North Carolina, and as ar south asRio de Janeiro, Brazil.Adult spiny lobsters live in the caverns and creviceso coral rees and hardbottom areas, hiding during theday and emerging at night to hunt and eat. Both juvenilesand adults are opportunistic eeders and will eat a widevariety o prey. Their preerred diet is small crustaceansand mollusks.
Lobster art by James Seagle
 Many of the adult lobsters caught in Floridaare hatched from eggs that may have come from as far away as South America.
Panulirus argus
 
 puerulus
3

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