CALIFORNIA SPINY LOBSTER Panulirus interruptus


Habitat: Spiny lobsters typically are found in caves and crevices of rocky reefs.

Average adult size: Adults can grow to be more than 2 feet long.

Natural history: Spiny lobsters, like all crustaceans, live inside a hard, outer shell or exoskeleton. This shell offers great protection from predators. Lobsters are shy and often gather in caves or crevices during the day. But they become active at night, leaving their shelters to roam the reef to feed. The California Spiny Lobster lacks the large claws of the Atlantic lobster. It more than makes up for that shortcoming by having a shell covered with sharp spines and long antennae. Spiny lobsters must shed their exoskeleton to grow, by a process called molting (just like a snake has to shed its skin.) The lobster splits the old shell in half where the main body meets the tail, and crawls out, leaving behind the molted shell in such perfect condition it can easily be mistaken for a live animal. Spiny lobsters molt several times a year as juveniles, once a year as adults. Lobsters are active predators on worms, snails and mussels. They are preyed upon by octopuses, large fishes and especially people. Lobsters have interesting eyes, carried at the end of a movable stalk like the periscope of a submarine. Their eyes are compound, like the eyes of a bee, divided into many facets. The lobster sees a mosaic of many images. Each image is not as sharp as what we see, but the combination enables the lobster to detect movement especially well. The largest spiny lobster weighed more than 26 pounds and was 3 feet long. Spiny lobsters may live to be about 25 to 50 years old.

Range: From San Luis Obispo, California, south to Rosalia Bay, Baja, California.