Tag Archives: Lobster

The California Spiny Lobster

The California spiny lobster is a unique invertebrate (species lacking a backbone) that is found off the coast of southern California. This type of lobster belongs to a group of invertebrates known as Arthropoda. Arthropoda’s characteristics consist of having a segmented body, exoskeleton, and jointed appendages. These lobsters share the same grouping classification as insects and spiders! How cool is that!

California Spiny Lobster

A California spiny lobster hiding in its den.

The California spiny lobster lacks claws, unlike its friend, the American lobster, which can be found off the eastern coast. They are also reddish-brown in color and have an enlarged pair of antennae, used for sensing their environment. These antennae can also produce a loud clicking noise to warn off predators. California spiny lobster get their name from the forward-pointing spines that cover their bodies to help protect them from predators.

California Spiny Lobster tim

Credit: Tim S

Their hard shell, or exoskeleton, also helps to protect them from predators, but can make growing a challenge. To grow, the lobster must shed their shell to increase their size! This process is called molting. To do this the lobster must reduce the size of their body in the shell, by drawing in as much water as they can, so their shell isn’t too tight. Then, the shell breaks between the tail and their body (otherwise known as a carapace). The lobster will then flex their body back and forth and eventually back out of their old shell. During this period, the lobster is shell-less, and EXTREMELY vulnerable. They must stay hidden because it’s super hard to protect themselves from prey without their hard exoskeleton protecting them. The lobster will then start the process of growing a new shell, which can take several months.

California Spiny Lobster 2

CIMI snorkelers discover a discarded lobster molt in the water!

When it comes to movement in the water, these guys are experts! With ten legs, these lobsters can walk along the sea floor, as well as move backwards and even sideways! However, if they need to move fast from predators, they can tuck their tails under their abdomens and rapidly propel themselves backwards, similar to how octopus and squid move!

These animals are nocturnal, and spend most of their day hiding in rocky crevices. At night, they leave their dens in search of a meal. Their diet ranges from algae and dead organisms to snails, sea urchins, and clams. They have even been known for cannibalism in desperate times, and have been seen feasting on injured or recently molted lobsters!

Whether you see lobsters as an interesting sea creature or a delectable meal, next time you’re at your local supermarket or on a snorkel, be sure to check out everything these amazing creatures have to offer!

California Spiny Lobster hair

Lobsters make great head masseuses and hair stylists, when they’re not busy using their ten legs for scuttling about. Credit: Gabrielle R and Capri L

P.S. For some inspiration from a rabbi on growing through adversity and learning from lobster, click here: http://www.stillworks.org/blog/2016/2/27/how-to-grow-through-stress-lessons-from-a-lobster-by-a-rabbi

Written By: Brooke Fox







California Spiny Lobster

The California Spiny Lobster (Panularis interuptus) is one of the many Crustaceans found around Catalina Island. The maximum size of these lobsters is to about 3 feet in length and up to 30 pounds! These lobsters also differ from the Atlantic lobster in that they lack chelipeds or claws. Instead they have long antennae covered in thick spines (hence the name spiny lobster). These antennae are used to sense both physical movements in the water as well as chemical changes. The longer antennae are used to feel around and even used to defend themselves against predation, while the smaller antennae or the antennules are used to sense chemical changes such as decaying flesh of other animals. They also have these spines covering their body as well!


These Crustaceans are nocturnal meaning that they are active and feed at night. However during the day you will not see these crustaceans because they normally hide themselves within the crevices of rocks and caves. Because these animals can detect decaying flesh of other animals these lobsters are great opportunistic foragers, which means they will eat almost anything! However when they cannot find an easy meal these lobsters will also eat sea urchins, snails and smaller crabs. These Crustaceans are closely related to insects giving them the nickname, the “bugs of the ocean”.


Spiny Lobster: Un-mammalian & Totally Alien

Whether protecting our kelp forests through predation, or acting as an enticing entrée on a dinner plate, the California Spiny Lobster is a vital organism for both our ecosystems and our appetites. When compared to mammals, the California Spiny Lobster truly looks other-worldly, like something out of a Guillermo Del Toro movie. Adult male lobster can grow up to 3 feet in length, and weigh 25 pounds. You may notice that they look like bugs of the sea; that is because they belong to the phylum Arthopoda, meaning “jointed limbs”. This phylum is home to many common insects and crustaceans, like spiders, centipedes, and crabs.

Unlike their heavily armed cousins, the American Lobster, California Spiny lobster do not have large claws protruding from their front. Instead they have sharp spines on their carapace for defense, as well as very strong jaws that could deliver a nasty bite. They use their strong jaws to crush open and devour many kelp-eating creatures like sea urchins; therefore lobsters are crucial in maintaining a healthy ecosystem balance. Lobsters can crawl around on the ocean floor in any direction, however while swimming, the lobster can only move backwards. Using their powerful tail, California Spiny Lobster propel themselves backwards into rocks and crevices to hide. Though a quick escape, this defense also makes them effectively blind while retreating from a predator.

Prized for it’s rich meat, the California Spiny Lobster makes up one of the largest sport fisheries on the west coast. Lobster hunters must acquire a California sport fishing license as well as an ocean enhancement stamp in order to catch the appetizing arthropod. There are many regulations to lobster diving such as legal size, number you can catch in one outing, dates that you can gather lobster, and more. These regulations are in place to make the lobster industry as enjoyable and sustainable as possible. Size limits are in place to allow lobsters to grow to a reproductive age. Catch number is regulated so not too many are taken from a habitat. Hunting season dates are in place to make sure lobsters are safe during the time they are carrying eggs and molting. If you have any questions about lobster fishing, you should visit the website for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at www.dfws.ca.gov.

Both delicious and nutritious. Un-mammalian and totally alien. The California spiny lobster plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem as well as supplying us with a delicious dish.


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