The blue spiny lobster is known by many names, including common rock lobster, painted rock lobster and its scientific name, Panulirus versicolor. This species of lobster is found predominantly in Sri Lanka, where it is one of the most common types of species found in the genus Panulirus. Specimens are solitary carnivores that usually grow no larger than 30 cm in length. Their lack of claws, unique white carapace, the two spiny rostra located right over the eyes and their double ended antennae are some of the blue lobster’s most distinguishable features.
The blue lobster is also known as the painted crayfish due to its distinctive azure blue markings adorning its legs. This species is most easily identified by its bright carapace that makes it one of the most beautiful bottom-dwelling crustacean on the reef. Although it doesn’t usually outgrow its moderate size, some specimens were found to grow up to 40 cm in length. Aside from its double pointed antennae, it also features a second row of spiny antennae, and both the animal’s carapace and its abdomen features stripes that are usually black on the former and white on the latter.
Blue lobsters are peaceful reef dwellers that can be found both on the reef and hidden between rocks and crevices, where they search for food. They are commonly spotted digging pits into the substrate, where they take refuge from predators. Their strength, precision of movement and agile, dance-like maneuvers make them difficult to capture by any of their predators and capable of residing in areas where the water currents are stronger. Aside from their occurrence near the coasts of Sri Lanka, they can also be found as far as the east coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean. They are also seen in the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the waters of northwest Australia and near the shores of Polynesia, Micronesia and Southern Japan.
The blue spiny lobster features a wide range of close relatives that can be found distributed across diverse areas of the world’s oceans. There is the ornate spiny lobster, which can be found mostly in the Red Sea, but also as far south as Africa, the spotted spiny lobster, and the Hawaiian blue lobster. One of the most distinctive traits of the blue spiny lobster is its peaceful attitude towards other species and ability to live together with other lobsters as well, despite their slightly more aggressive attitude adopted during adulthood.