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In the world of crustaceans, lobsters are one of the most well-known. Sadly, most people are only familiar with them because they’re a popular seafood delicacy, but there’s so much more to these amazing creatures.
Belonging to the arthropod family, lobsters encompass a wide array of interesting species. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at their anatomy, the mesmerizing process of molting, their distinctive reproduction and life cycle, as well as their feeding habits. We’ll also explore the diverse lobster species that inhabit our oceans and address the pressing concern of global warming’s impact on these marine inhabitants.
Lobsters are a group of marine crustaceans from the Nephropidae family and the order Decapoda, which is in reference to their ten legs arranged in five pairs. One of the most notable features of lobsters is that many species have claws on their first set of legs, although not all types of lobsters exhibit this trait. Interestingly, most lobsters are right-handed, with approximately 90% of individuals having a dominant right claw. Whether a lobster has a dominant right or left claw depends on whether the crusher claw is located on the right or left side of their body.
But Nephropidae isn’t the only lobster family, this is in reference only to true lobsters. There are also other types, including spiny lobsters and slipper lobsters which belong to the Palinuridae and Scyllaridae families, respectively. Interestingly, while they do live in the water, lobsters are more closely related to insects than they are to fish.
Lobsters exhibit remarkable diversity in terms of their habitats, appearances, and behaviors. They can be found in a variety of environments, ranging from the ocean’s profound depths to coastal regions, and they may choose to live solitary lives or in social groups. However, one common trait shared by most lobster species is their omnivorous nature, as they feed on a wide array of food sources, encompassing both living and dead organisms
Lobsters are ectothermic creatures, which means they can adjust their body temperature according to their surroundings. As a result, they are typically more active in warmer waters, where their metabolism is increased, compared to colder environments. This ability to regulate their body temperature based on their location is a remarkable adaptation of these marine crustaceans.
For humans, lobsters have long been a staple food. Today, they’re seen as a gourmet dish but in years gone by, these marine animals were actually eaten by the poor who couldn’t afford luxuries like chicken. Outside of this, lobster was never consumed by humans and favored as a livestock food. It wasn’t until the middle of the 18th century that it became regarded as a fancy and luxurious food.
In terms of appearance, lobsters can vary greatly, especially where size is concerned. For example, the smallest lobster is the Mediterranean slipper lobster, which only grows to around 12 inches (30 cm) in length. On the other end of the scale, the American lobster can grow up to 24 inches (61 cm) in length.
A lobster’s body is composed of 21 segments that are fused together. Of these, 14 segments, known as somites, collectively form the cephalothorax. The mouthparts of the lobster are situated in the first three thoracic segments and the final three segments of the cephalon.
Lobster mouthparts are particularly interesting, if not only because they have several pairs. There are the maxillipeds which are used for cleaning and holding food, while the mandibles are used for chewing.
Under the lobster’s carapace, there are a series of gills which allow the animal to breathe. As water moves over the gills, they extract oxygen, which is then sent to other parts of the body via the blood. Lobster blood is also very interesting and actually has no color. However, when it is exposed to oxygen, it takes on a blue hue.
The blood of a lobster is known as hemolymph and runs through an open circulatory system that doesn’t contain veins. Instead, blood is pumped through open spaces that are interconnected by the four-chambered heart.
Their nervous system is interesting and, unlike humans, lobsters have a decentralized nervous system that has a series of nerve cell clusters called ganglia, located throughout the body. The lobster doesn’t even have a brain and only has around 100,000 neurons, whereas a human has close to 1 billion.
One of the most amazing things about lobster antennae is that they are autonomous, meaning they’ll regrow after being removed. This is something that commonly happens when the lobster is grabbed by a predator and dropping the antennae allows it to get away, relatively unscathed.
The antennae are located on the head, and the lobster largely uses them as a sensory aid, feeling its way around the ocean and ‘smelling’ their prey. This amazing sense of smell allows the lobster to identify its prey from a single amino acid. In addition to this, the antennae are covered in tiny, sensory hairs that allow them to detect changes in the environment.
Spiny lobsters have horns that act in the same way as antennae, which they rub together to make a hissing sound which scares off predators.
Lobsters have compound eyes which are made up from many tiny facets, allowing the animal to detect movement and light, including polarized light. They also have a reflective structure above the retina, but their eyesight isn’t that good as they largely use their antennae to sense things.
The exoskeleton of a lobster is hard and designed to protect the animal. However, over the course of its life, the lobster must shed its exoskeleton as it doesn’t grow with its body. During these molts, some lobsters will change color and may come in colors like brown, red, and blue. However, there are some instances of calico patterned lobsters which are known as cinnamon lobsters. Color changes may also be stimulated by stress and environmental factors.
The cephalothorax is the part of the lobster that houses the animal’s most important sensory and internal organs. This part can be found where the head and thorax are fused, and the area is covered by a carapace made from chitin (the same material insect exoskeletons are made from.)
From the base of the cephalothorax, the abdomen extends down and this includes pleopods, known commonly as swimmerets which are small limbs that the lobster uses when swimming.
Lobsters have large tails called telsons which are used for self-defense, swimming, and movement. These tail fans are incredibly powerful and muscular and help to propel the animal through the water. Although usually large, the size of the tail can vary between species and individuals.
Just like the antennae, lobsters can regrow their claws after losing them. However, while this is one of their most recognizable features, not all lobster species have claws. For example, while true lobsters have claws, spiny lobsters do not.
Lobsters use their claws both as a self-defense weapon and for catching prey. On one side, they have a crusher claw which is the larger of the two and designed to crush up food while on the other side, the sharper cutter claw allows the lobster to catch and dissect its prey.
Lobsters have five pairs of legs located between the 10th and 14th sections of the body. On the first pair of legs is where we find the claws, in species that possess them.
The eight other pairs of legs are used for walking, and lobsters can often be seen wandering around the ocean floor at night, hunting for prey.
The digestive system of the lobster contains several stomachs, although the number depends on the species. For example, the American lobster has three stomachs, whereas many others just have two.
It’s inside the stomach where food is grinded up thanks to a series of teeth-like structures. There’s also a special digestive gland which helps the body to process nutrients and get rid of waste.
The exoskeleton of a lobster does not grow with the rest of the body. This means that lobsters have to undergo a regular molt in order to shed their existing exoskeleton and grow a new, larger one that ‘fits’.
This process is more common in younger lobsters who are yet to reach their full size and, as they age, the frequency of molting decreases. During their most active stages of growth, young lobsters may shed their exoskeletons as often as every few weeks.
But they don’t just lose them all in one go. This is a gradual process known as ecdysis, which involves the layers of the exoskeleton coming away one at a time. However, once the process is complete, the lobster loses the hard protective layer which is replaced by a temporary soft shell, meaning they’re more vulnerable to predation.
During this period, lobsters will often eat their old shells to get back some of the calcium they lost, which helps to speed up the hardening process. In order to do this, the lobster must also shed the lining of its digestive system as well as absorbing minerals from the environment. Generally speaking, the hardening process can take anywhere between 14 and 30 days.
Molting happens when the lobster becomes too large for its current exoskeleton, but they are able to delay the process by releasing hormones from glands in their eye stalks. Typically, the process is triggered by changes in food availability and water temperature as well as daylight hours.
Reproduction & Life Cycle
The lobster has a complex reproductive system, with females being able to retain sperm for up to two years. Inside her body, she may have as many as 75,000 eggs, which she can fertilize when conditions are optimal. Male lobsters have special swimmerets that are much harder and more bony than those of the females. These allow him to transfer sperm to his mate.
What’s more, lobsters go through an interesting life cycle before they reach adulthood, which I’ll explore more in the following sections.
Like many animals, lobsters go through a courtship ritual in order to select a mate. When they’re ready to mate, female lobsters release pheromones in their urine that attract the males.
If the male is receptive, he will open up his den to allow the female in. But in order to mate, she must have recently molted. There may even be some instances where the female removes her exoskeleton in preparation for mating.
During the actual mating process, the male must transfer sperm to the female, which he does using his swimmerets. The sperm is contained in packets called spermatophores, which he deposits on the underside of the female. As I mentioned earlier, females can carry live sperm for up to two years.
Contrary to popular belief, lobsters do not mate for life.
Females have a special receptacle in which to keep the sperm and will fertilize the eggs when the time is right. She does this by pushing the eggs out of her ovaries, where they pass through the sperm packets.
Once the eggs are fertilized, she carries them around on the underside of her body for between 9 and 12 months.
The fertilized eggs attach to the female’s swimmerets, which are much more feathery than those of the male. The female lobster will fan the eggs to keep them cool and inside, the baby lobsters shed their shells as they grow.
New eggs are generally greenish in color but turn a more orange to brown shade as they mature.
After the 9 to 11 months have passed, the eggs are ready to hatch. Once this happens, the female will release the young inside, called zoea, into the ocean current. She does this by fanning her tail and the process could take several days, depending on how many eggs there are.
Zoea start their life as something that doesn’t much resemble an adult lobster at all. However, throughout the first few weeks of their lives, they will molt their shells several times, growing at a healthy rate.
During those first weeks, the larvae remain much closer to the ocean surface, and it usually takes around 30 days before they are able to swim independently.
After moving through three larval stages and changing appearance with each molt, the young lobsters, at around 6 weeks of age, begin their descent to the ocean floor. At this point, they are considered to be juveniles and are called Megalopae. Compared to the larvae, they look more recognizable as a lobster but they’re still not fully grown.
At this point, the young are still vulnerable to predation, and it’s estimated that for every 50,000 eggs, only two lobsters will reach adulthood.
Juvenile & Adult Growth
Once the juveniles are settled on the ocean floor, they’ll spend a lot of their time hiding. It can take as many as 25 molts before they reach their adult size, and this process can take between five and seven years to complete.
However, even after they reach adulthood, lobsters will still continue to molt, just less frequently. For males, this happens around once every five to eight years, whereas females molt every year or two.
Unlike a lot of animals, it is hard to tell the age of a lobster just by looking at it because they don’t show signs of deterioration with age. Because of this, many people are fooled into thinking that they are immortal, but this is not the case.
There have been memes floating around the internet referring to the immortality of lobsters, largely relating to the fact that they continue to grow and molt their entire lives. While this doesn’t make them immortal, scientists do believe that they may be able to better understand the aging process and how to potentially slow it down.
This is because lobsters have enzymes called telomerase in their cells, which prevents them from breaking down as quickly. We can attribute their very long lives of around 80 to 100 years to the presence of this enzyme. There are even some reports of lobsters living for up to 140 years.
Interestingly, these animals cannot die from old age, again bringing credibility to the immortality claims. However, it is possible for them to die because of exhaustion from molting or if they are caught by humans for food.
Moreover, lobster shell disease is a condition in which lesions form on the carapace. Eventually these lesions become larger and microorganisms like bacteria get inside, causing an infection that results in death.
Diet & Feeding Habits
Lobsters are omnivores and to be honest, they’re not that fussy about what they eat. They’re often seen scavenging food from the ocean floor, even if they’re decaying.
Typically, these marine crustaceans hunt at night for things like mollusks, crabs, small fish, and at times will become cannibalistic. However, this behavior isn’t frequent and is usually seen during molting time when smaller lobsters become more vulnerable.
Before they reach adulthood, lobsters simply aren’t large enough to capture and eat the prey that their parents would. Instead, the zoea filter feeds on things like plankton and have appendages that allow them to catch these. However, while these minute creatures might not seem like a lot, they contain enough nutrients to aid the fast growth of the young lobsters.
As adults, lobsters will catch their prey using their claws, but how they do this depends on the type of prey they’re catching. For example, if they’re going after hard-shelled clams, they will use their crusher claw to break open the shell. On the other hand, when hunting for fish, the lobster will use its cutter claw to reach out and grab its meal. This claw also allows it to tear the flesh into more manageable pieces.
True Lobsters (Family Nephropidae)
True lobsters are characterized by their claws and belong to the Nephropidae family in which there are between 60 and 70 different species. However, this number regularly changes as new species are discovered and lobsters are further subcategorized.
True lobsters have long segmented bodies with a long muscular tail and can typically be found on the ocean floor, where they live in burrows. They’re found in oceans all over the world in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Some of the most well-known species of true lobster include the American lobster and the European lobster. However, the size and coloration of different species can vary greatly.
For example, some don’t grow very big, while others can get to around 3 feet (91 cm) in length. True lobsters have colors that allow them to blend into their environment, including green, brown, yellow, gray, and even blue.
Lobsters within this family all have claws which are located on their first limbs. They have two different types of claws, including the crusher and cutter claws.
The oldest true lobster was a female that lived to 72 years. However, usually, individuals within the Nephropidae family have a life span of 54 years, on average. Over the course of their lives, they molt their exoskeleton several times as their bodies grow.
True lobsters are highly prized by humans, who enjoy them for their sweet and tender meat. It’s reported that as many as 134,480 short tons (122,000 metric tonnes) of lobster are caught in the North Atlantic every year.
American Lobster (Homarus americanus)
The American lobster is one of the most well-known lobster species, and is found along the North American Atlantic coast. Primarily this species inhabits rocky seabeds, but it can be found in sandy areas as well.
American lobsters have large claws with a red to orange underside. While all American lobsters have both a crusher and a cutter claw, they could be on either side, determining the dexterity of the animal.
Feeding at night, these lobsters will both scavenge and catch live prey and have a three-stomach digestive system that grinds up their meals. While lobsters caught for human use typically measure around 9.8 inches (25 cm), left in the wild, American lobsters can grow to over 3.3 feet (1 meter) in length.
European Lobster (Homarus gammarus)
The European lobster is similar in many ways to the Ameren lobster, but one way to tell the difference is that this species has a white underside to the claw. Similarly, they have both a crusher and a cutter claw, which it uses when hunting at night for invertebrates, starfish, and small crabs.
Found primarily in the eastern Atlantic but also the Black and Mediterranean Seas, the European lobster grows on average to around 24 inches (61 cm). During its early life stages, it goes through three molts and can live for around 54 years.
These lobsters are usually a blueish color and their exoskeleton has a series of spotted markings. There were attempts to introduce the species to New Zealand, but these were not successful. Still, their populations elsewhere are healthy, with breeding taking place year round and females carrying up to 40,000 eggs at a time!
Norway Lobster (Nephrops norvegicus)
Sometimes called the Dublin Bay prawn or the schlobster, the Norway lobster is considered to be one of the most commercially important crustaceans in Europe. It’s what you’re served when you order langoustine.
Norway lobsters are found in northern oceans, including the North Sea and the north-east Atlantic. They’re a smaller species, typically growing to around 9.8 inches (25 cm) in length and have an elongated first pair of legs, tipped with largish claws. Interestingly, the second and third pairs of legs also have small claws.
The Norway lobster prefers a muddy seabed where it can burrow into the sediment during the day. At night, it comes out to hunt for crustaceans and mollusks and may live at depths of up to 2,625 feet (800 meters).
Cape Lobster (Homarinus capensis)
Cape lobsters are much smaller than their American and European cousins, with individuals growing only to around 3.9 inches (10 cm) in length. They’re found off the coast of South Africa on rocky sea floors and can be characterized by their flattened bodies.
This is one of the rarer species of lobster, and not many are ever caught. In fact, in a period of 200 years between 1792 and 1992, only 14 individuals were recorded as being caught. However, the animal is not listed as threatened or endangered as there is not enough data to determine its status.
Like other lobster species, the Cape lobster uses olfactory cues when mating in a very unusual courtship ritual involving urine and pheromones.
Spiny/Rock Lobsters (Family Palinuridae)
Spiny lobsters, of which there are around 60 species, belong to a family called Palinuridae, and they’re sometimes referred to as crayfish in certain parts of the world like South Africa and Australia. You may also hear people calling them rock lobsters because they’re often found living among the rocks. That said, they’re also common on coral reefs and come in a range of colors, including brown, mottled, red, and orange.
These lobsters typically inhabit warmer waters and are therefore frequently found in tropical and subtropical areas like the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. When winter comes around, adults can often be observed migrating in a single line to escape the cold water. They use their antennae to navigate as well as the magnetic force from the earth.
Unlike true lobsters, spiny lobsters do not have claws. However, they do have incredibly strong legs for walking. What’s more, they can be characterized by their spiny antennae, which is where they get their name. These antennae are essential in allowing the lobster to communicate and sense its surroundings.
While they don’t have claws, spiny lobsters are equipped with pincers, which are located on the fifth pair of walking legs. During the day, you’re unlikely to see a spiny lobster as they wait until darkness falls before they exit their burrows and go on the hunt for food.
In terms of human importance, spiny lobsters are also valued for their meat. It has a much more delicate flavor than true lobster meat and is likely what you’ll be served if you order lobster tail.
Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus)
The Caribbean spiny lobster is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the West Atlantic as well as in the Caribbean Sea. They prefer a habitat with lots of cover and can frequently be found on coral reefs. Normally, they don’t live more than 328 feet (100 meters) below the surface.
Caribbean spiny lobsters are usually brown to olive in color and have long bodies with two horn-like appendages above the eyes. They feel their way around their environment using their antennae, the second pair of which is longer than the lobster’s body. While they can grow to between 18 – 24 inches (46 – 61 cm), typically they reach no more than 7.9 inches (20 cm) in length.
This species forages primarily for bivalves and gastropods but will occasionally scavenge. They’re also vulnerable to predation themselves, especially during their juvenile stages by things like rays and sharks.
California Spiny Lobster (Panulirus interruptus)
Found along the Pacific coasts or North America, the California lobster is a large species that has been known to grow up to 35 inches (90 cm) in length. They tend to live in mid-depth water up to around 213 feet (65 meters) and prefer a rocky or coral reef habitat.
California spiny lobsters are prolific breeders, and the females may carry as many as 680,000 eggs at a time! What’s more, unlike a lot of species whose eggs take months to develop, California lobster larvae hatch after just 10 weeks.
Since these lobsters are often found in kelp forests and are predators, they’re considered an important part of their ecosystem, helping to maintain balance. However, they don’t usually live longer than five to seven years as most are caught by commercial fishermen.
Spanish Lobster (Palinurus elephas)
The Spanish lobster, sometimes called the European spiny lobster, is found in the Mediterranean Sea and the east Atlantic Ocean. It’s a relatively large species that can grow up to 24 inches (61 cm) in length and has a unique pattern with a reddish brown coloration and yellow spotted markings, making them easily identifiable.
Spanish lobsters are very sensitive to their surroundings thanks to large eyes and long antennae that help them to navigate the world around them. They breed usually between September and October, and eggs take around 9 months to hatch.
While the Spanish lobster does prefer rocky sea beds, it can be found in other areas and typically lives at depths between 66 – 230 feet (20 – 70 meters).
Painted Rock Lobster (Panulirus versicolor)
Named for its bright colors and unique patterns, the painted rock lobster is one of the most easy to recognize. It has black and white stripes along the legs and a greenish or blue coloration. Painted rock lobsters lack claws but have two long rostra as well as two sets of antennae.
Painted rock lobsters are found in the Indo-Pacific regions as far down as South Africa and across to Hawaii. They’re also common off the coasts of Australia and Japan, living at depths of up to 2,953 feet (900 meters).
The painted rock lobster is not a large species and usually grows to around 12 inches (30 cm), although some individuals may reach 15.7 inches (40 cm). This is a solitary species but will come together during breeding when it uses similar olfactory cues to other lobsters.
Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii)
The southern rock lobster, sometimes called the red rock lobster, lives at depths of up to 656 feet (200 meters). Interestingly, the color of the lobster is determined by the depth at which it lives. Those that live in shallower waters tend to have a purpler to red coloration, whereas individuals in deeper water fade from purple to cream.
Southern rock lobsters are found around the southern coasts of Australia and around the New Zealand coastline and can grow to between 16 and 24 inches (41 and 61 cm), with males usually being slightly larger.
During breeding, females can carry as many as 500,000 eggs, but these lobsters can take up to 11 years to mature. Unlike many species, these lobsters are quite short lived with individuals typically lasting for around 20 years.
Slipper Lobsters (Family Scyllaridae)
There are around 90 known species of lobster within the Scyllaridae family, and most of them inhabit reefs or rocky areas on the ocean floor, where they spend much of the day hiding out. However, some species will also burrow into the sediment. This ability to quickly hide themselves is their main method of defense.
Like many other lobsters, they come out to hunt at night when they can be seen walking around the sea floor with their unique gait that can be attributed to their five pairs of walking legs and tail. On the head, slipper lobsters have forward-facing antennae that, like most other lobsters, are used for communication and as a sensory aid.
These lobsters have a flatter body than other types and a face that looks as though it’s been smashed up. Unlike the true lobster, they have very underdeveloped claws and a thick carapace that looks like a slipper; it’s easy to see how they got their name.
The color of slipper lobsters can vary significantly, with some having more muted shades of brown while others come in blue, green, or even patterned varieties. Some of the largest slipper lobsters measure around 12 inches (30 cm) in length, but some are much smaller, like the Mediterranean slipper lobster that rarely grows more than a few inches.
Slipper lobsters are often caught by humans for food and are used in much the same way as true lobsters in terms of how they’re served. The taste is quite similar as well.
Mediterranean Slipper Lobster (Scyllarides latus)
Found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, this species of slipper lobster inhabits sandy and rocky coastlines and lives at depths of up to 328 feet (100 meters).
Mediterranean slipper lobsters typically grow to around 12 inches (30 cm) in length, although many individuals are smaller than this. In terms of appearance, this species lacks claws and spines, and their coloration helps them to blend into the surroundings.
Only coming out to hunt at night, the Mediterranean slipper lobster feeds mainly on mollusks. Hunting at night helps these lobsters remain safe from predation, as the majority of their natural predators hunt during the day.
Eastern Caribbean Slipper Lobster (Scyllarides aequinoctialis)
The eastern Caribbean slipper lobster is found, as its name suggests, in the Caribbean Sea as well as the western Atlantic. It can be found in various habitats but tends to stay in shallower waters where it remains hidden for most of the day, emerging at night to hunt.
These slipper lobsters grow to around 12 inches (30 cm) in length and were the first type of slipper lobster to ever be described in the western Atlantic.
In order to evade danger, this species has a soft and flexible tail which not only allows it to move quickly but also helps it to swim backwards when necessary.
Sculptured Mitten Lobster (Parribacus antarcticus)
Sculpted mitten lobsters are a small species that doesn’t generally grow to more than 4.7 to 5.9 inches (12 to 15 cm) in length. Although, males can be slightly larger in some rare cases. They’re found in the western Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific regions where they live in shallower water up to just 66 feet (20 meters) in depth.
The sculpted mitten lobster has a flattened body and comes in a yellowish color with brown mottled markings. Unlike a lot of lobster species, the sculpted mitten can often be seen hiding out in small groups during the day. It is a nocturnal hunter.
They prefer a coral reef or rocky habitat where they’re given a lot of cover and are usually described as opportunistic omnivores, feeding on everything from mollusks to sea urchins.
Small European Locust Lobster (Scyllarus arctus)
The small European locust lobster is found both in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It’s a small species that grows, on average to around 6.3 inches (16 cm) and has a reddish brown coloration with dark spots and a blue ring around each body segment.
European locusts breed between February and April and can be found in muddy or rocky habitats as well as artificial reefs.
Small European locust lobsters live at varying depths but usually no deeper than around 1,457 feet (444 meters). Like other species of non-true lobsters, European locusts do not have claws.
Squat Lobsters (Family Galatheidae)
There are around 100 species in the family Galatheidae, which are commonly known as squat lobsters. They get this name from their uniquely shaped body, which is much flatter than other types of lobsters. What’s more, they have longer legs, which makes them look as though they’re squatting.
Squat lobsters can be found in many places in the ocean, including around the coast as well as in deeper waters as far down as the abyss, where they scavenge for food. However, the biggest populations are found in the Atlantic Ocean.
Unlike true lobsters, these species do not have claws but instead have smaller pincers which are located on the first pair of walking legs. Amazingly, this first pair of legs can be six times as long as the lobster’s body! They also have two incredibly long pairs of antennae which they use for sensing their surroundings and for communication.
In terms of appearance, squat lobsters can vary greatly. Some species are very small at just a few inches in length, like the Galathea intermedia. Different species of squat lobster also vary in color, coming in browns, reds, and even oranges. Their coloration depends on their natural habitat and serves as camouflage.
Gregarious Squat Lobster (Munida gregaria)
Named because of its more social behavior, the gregarious squat lobster is a cute little critter that isn’t afraid to move inshore, whereas most lobsters are found at the bottom of the ocean.
The gregarious squat lobster is found along the South American and New Zealand coasts and, when swarms of them arrive on the beaches, they make it look as though the sand has turned red, because of their coloration in such large numbers.
This is a very small species, with individuals only growing to around 2 inches (5 cm) in length. But even before they reach adulthood, gregarious squat lobsters have to undergo five different larval stages.
Pelagic Red Crab (Grimothea planipes)
The pelagic red crab, despite its name, is actually a species of lobster and is found along the coasts of Mexico and California. This is a small species that usually grows no larger than 5 inches (13 cm) in length and has a pale red color.
While it does lack the large claws of a true lobster, the pelagic red crab does have small pincer-like claws on the end of its first legs.
When the weather gets warmer, adults can be seen migrating upwards towards the surface, but they usually inhabit depths of up to 1,200 feet (366 meters).
Rugose Squat Lobster (Munida rugosa)
Rugose squat lobsters are sometimes called plated lobsters and are found in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. They prefer a muddy or sandy substrate but can also be found in rocky areas in waters between 98 and 984 feet (30 and 300 meters) in depth.
The rugose squat lobster has dark colored bands running across its orange body, making it quite distinctive looking. This species can grow to around 4 inches (10 cm) but may appear smaller as it often tucks its abdomen under its cephalothorax.
The first legs are much longer than the other pairs, often longer than the lobster’s body and have small pincer-like claws at the ends. In males, the claws may be more curved than that of the female and this is thought to be related to sexual selection.
Black Squat Lobster (Galathea squamifera)
The black squat lobster is another species found in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, waters where it lives in rocky habitats at depths of up to 230 feet (70 meters).
This is one of the smallest types of lobster, with individuals only growing to around 2.6 inches (6.6 cm) in length. They have a round, flattened body and are typically chestnut brown in color. Owing to their small size, this is a popular aquarium species.
Deep-Sea Lobsters (Family Polychelidae)
While most lobsters stay within a few hundred feet of the surface, there are some that live right down in the depths of the ocean. These are sometimes called blind lobsters and have been recorded at depths as deep as 16,404 feet (5,000 meters). They have special adaptations that allow them to cope down in the abyssal zone and many, as their nickname suggests, lack functioning eyes.
As is the case with many types of lobsters, members of the Polychelidae family often scavenge for food. In the case of blind lobsters this is usually matter that falls to the bottom of the ocean, like dead fish and other organisms.
Because of how far down in the ocean they live, deep sea lobsters are less well understood. Moreover, there aren’t as many species within this family, largely because we’ve been unable to discover as many. However, a new species was found in the Philippine Sea and was even placed in its very own genus.
Deep sea lobster tend to have elongated bodies which can have either a smooth or spiny exoskeleton. Some species have bioluminescent capabilities, which serve as a form of communication in the deep ocean. They also have bristles known as setae all over their bodies that allow them to sense their surroundings. Although this isn’t something seen in all blind lobster species.
Polycheles sculptus looks more like a prawn than a lobster and is a blind species, owing to a lack of a need to see at the depths it lives. In some cases, these creatures have been found as deep as 13,120 feet (3,999 meters).
They’re common in the east and West Atlantic Ocean but have also been found in the Mediterranean Sea. They have a red to orange colored elongated body and a fan-like tail.
Polycheles typhlops is a small deep sea lobster species that doesn’t typically grow any larger than 3.9 inches (10 cm) in length. While it is blind, it’s an incredibly dominant species within its habitat and lives at depths of up to 6,562 feet (2,000 meters), although there are some disputes surrounding this.
This species lacks the large claws of true lobsters but has long, pincer-like appendages on the ends of the first legs. It’s pale in color and comes in white, orange or yellow. When females are carrying their eggs, the eggs will be the same color as the mother so as to better conceal them.
While not much is known about the species, it is thought that, when hunting, the Polycheles typhlops hides under the sediment with its long claws poking out, ready to ambush its prey.
Cardus crucifer is a species of blind lobster that’s found in the Atlantic Ocean. These lobsters live at depths of up to and over 6,562 feet (2,000 meters) and are found around the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and other areas.
The carapace is covered in thistle-like spines and, unlike many other lobster species, it only has four pairs of legs.
It is the only species within its genus.
Global Warming Impact
When lobsters are exposed to waters that are too warm, they reach what is known as their stress threshold, and this can make them more susceptible to disease. While some warming might be beneficial to processes like molting, too much warming could cause problems.
It’s been reported that a significant rise in sea water temperatures in the water column could affect lobster larvae more quickly than their adult counterparts. As such, this could impact the lobsters’ ability to reproduce at a normal rate.
However, in many cases, such as in the waters around the coast of Maine, adult lobsters don’t seem to be too phased by the warmer waters. This could be down to the lobster’s adaptability, but in this area, the lobster industry has also been adapting in order to cope with the changes.
The problem is that while lobsters seem to be enjoying the slight rise in temperatures of recent years, this isn’t something they’ll be able to withstand if things get too hot. Reports suggest that if things continue warming the way that they are, lobsters may eventually start migrating in search of cooler waters. Although, there is hope as studies have shown that lobsters are one of the more adaptable marine creatures when it comes to climate change.