California spiny lobster displayed live at “Tuna Harbor Dockside Market”, San Diego, USA – (Video)

This short video was filmed at “Tuna Harbor Dockside Market”, San Diego, USA during the Saturday fish market held on 27 December 2014. Based on a quick tour in the market, and compared to whole fish display, this lobster is the most expensive item in all displays as the price during the day of the visit was US$26/lb. Showing potential customers that the animal was still alive seemed important in promoting the sale of this expensive product. According to the information provided by Sea Grant, traps are used to collect these lobsters during the period from October – March every year.

 Characteristics: The California spiny lobster, (Panulirus interruptus) is one of the largest spiny lobster species, and typically grows to a length of 30 centimeters. Males can weigh up to 12 kilograms and Adults can grow to be more than 2 feet long. Spiny lobsters may live to be about 25 to 50 years old.

Like all spiny lobsters, the California spiny lobster has two large, spiny antennae, but no large claws on its legs. It is characterized by a reddish-brown color with stripes along the legs. The interrupted grooves across the tail are characteristic for the species. California spiny lobsters are nocturnal, hiding in crevices during the day, with only the tips of their long antennae showing, as a means of avoiding predators.

Distribution and habitats: The California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, is found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California to the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Mexico. The majority of the population is found between Point Conception, California and Magdalena Bay, Baja California. The California spiny lobster is found in parts of the Gulf of California, and along the Pacific coast of the length of the Baja California peninsula, extending as far north as San Luis Obispo Bay, California. Although adult lobsters can be found in shallow water, they usually live on rocky substrates from the intertidal zone at depths of 65 meters or more. The juveniles generally inhabit rocky habitats at a depth of 0–4 m with dense plant cover, especially the surf grass.

As stimulated by changes in water temperature, spiny lobsters may carry out an annual offshore-onshore migration, in which they enter shallower water in spring and summer whereas plentiful supply of food exist, while head out to deeper water in fall and winter probably to avoid the effects of winter storms.

Food habits: Because the California spiny lobsters are nocturnal, their feeding activity begins at night when the animals leave their dens to search for their food. Adult lobsters are omnivorous and sometimes carnivorous. They consume algae and a wide variety of marine invertebrates such as sea urchins, snails, mussels, worms, and clams as well as fishes, and injured or newly molted lobsters. Their feeding upon sea urchins is important for maintaining healthy seabed communities.

Reproduction and life history: Females of California spiny lobsters reach sexual maturity at an age of 5–9 years while males are sexually mature after 3–6 years. The spawning takes place from May to August. After mating, the fertilized eggs are carried on the female’s pleopods until they hatch, with between 120,000 and 680,000 eggs carried by a single female. The eggs begin coral red, but darken as they develop to a deep maroon. The eggs become ready to hatch after 10 weeks.

The fertilized eggs hatch into tiny, transparent larvae “Phyllosoma”  which are drifted in the ocean and have to undergo 12 molts that take about 7 months ending by the juvenile stage “Puerulus” that settle to the sea floor. The settled “puerulus” which looks like a miniature adult starts to grow if the habitat is suitable till reaching the adult size.

Lobster’s predators: Lobsters are vulnerable to predation. The natural predators of the California spiny lobster include bony fish such as the California sheep head, giant sea bass, California moray eels, cabezon, horn shark, leopard shark, rock fishes, octopuses and sea otters. California spiny lobster can defend itself against its natural predators through producing a loud noise using its antennae. Also, if a predator is very close, the lobsters will flex their muscular tail in order to escape the predator.

References: Wikipedia, Freebase, Blue Ocean Institute, California Seafood Council, PBS Foundation, All Kayal

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