Lobsters are large marine crustaceans that belong to the family Nephropidae. They have long bodies and are characterized by their large first pair of claws and muscular tails. They can be found in all oceans, usually on rocky or muddy bottoms, living in crevices and burrows and feeding on plants, mollusks and fish.
All lobster species have their bodies protected by a hard exoskeleton. In order to grow, they must molt their carapace which makes them vulnerable to predators, and some have adapted to changing color until developing a new exoskeleton. These animals have 5 pairs of legs, with the first 3 having claws. The first pair of claws is the largest, which is used for catching prey or for defending or scooping up the sea floor. Due to the specific techniques and diets, lobsters may have specialized claws which may alter their general bilateral symmetry.
The body of a lobster is composed of a cephalothorax – which is actually the head and the thorax fused together, protected by a hard external carapace – and a strong and muscular abdomen which is used for swimming. The head of a lobster has appendages such as antennae, with which it senses movement and food on the sea floor, since they usually live in a murky environment where the eyes don’t play a significant role. On the head there are also present the mandibles, two pair of maxillae and the maxilllipeds.
Large lobster specimens have been estimated to be 60 years of age, although an accurate determination of their age is difficult. There is research that may suggest that the age of the lobster does not influence fertility, as it will not slow down or decrease in quality over time. It has been discovered that older lobsters are actually more fertile than younger specimens. In most vertebrates, telomerase, an enzyme responsible for repairing telomeres (the repetitive ends of chromosomes), is active only during early stages of development.
The aging process is strongly related to the lack of telomerase activity, but it seems that in the case of lobster species, this enzyme continues its activity though the entire adulthood, and it is expressed throughout all the tissues of the body. This telomerase activity has been correlated to the particularly long life span and fertility of lobster species.
Because lobsters grow throughout their entire life time, they are able to reach impressive sizes, with the largest specimen, captured in Nova Scotia, Canada, weighing 20.15 kilograms.
Hawaiian Reef Lobster
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.
Blue Spiny Reef Lobster
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.