Referred to by scientists as Enoplometopus occidentalis, the Hawaiian reef lobster is a type of small lobster classified in the genus Enoplometopus. It is brightly colored, active and commonly found at a great variety of depths, ranging between 1 and 300 meters below the surface of the sea. A lively animal, this reef lobster is cunning, peaceful and versatile when it comes to scavenging for food even between rocks, crevices and other areas that are difficult to reach. Its bright red color and common association with the island of Hawaii are the main factors that have inspired the name of this creature.
This species can be found on coral reefs, usually burrowing its home in areas where there is a thick substrate of sand and fine coral reef formations. Although it’s territorial against members of its species, the Hawaiian lobster is generally peaceful and doesn’t normally attack other fish, except for smaller species and invertebrates. It is distinguished through its bright colors and spots and the fact that it only has full chelae on its first set of pereiopods. The lobster is mainly nocturnal and timid, hiding away in its home for much of the day, especially when requiring added protection after moulting.
The species chooses its habitat carefully, ensuring that it has plenty of rocks and corals to provide it with good hiding places. Due to its peaceful nature, it will ignore most fish and prefer to hide away rather than pick fights. Its natural predators are the triggerfish and similar small predators. The Hawaiian reef lobster spends most of its time digging a home into the substrate, and it will rarely leave its hiding place during daylight hours, especially when residing in a new environment.
Reef lobsters are a genus of lobster that is prevalent in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean, but also in the tropical areas of the eastern Atlantic. Enoplometopus occidentalis is more commonly distributed in the central Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, particularly areas like the coasts of Hawaii, Japan, eastern Australia, Indonesia, Seychelles and Taiwan. The Hawaiian reef lobster can also be found in regions like Madagascar, South Africa, Mauritius and China, although here the population is lower than on the reefs of Australia or Hawaii.