Jupiter Marine Spotlight: Spiny Lobsters
The Spiny lobster gets its name from the forward-facing spines that cover the whole body, and helps them protect themselves from predators such as nurse sharks, moray eels, octopuses, and goliath groupers. They also have sharp horns above their eyes and a pair of long antennae that they use for defense and fighting. The lobsters vary in color from almost white to dark red-orange, and the two large cream colored spots on the top of the second segment of the tail makes them easy to identify.
As it grows, a spiny lobster molts (or sheds) its shell. After molting, the lobster is soft-bodied and very vulnerable to predators. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks before their new shell is hard enough to be able to protect themselves again. While they are soft and fragile, lobsters will bury themselves in the mud or hide under rocks. It takes a spiny lobster about two years to grow to the three-inch carapace legal-harvesting size, and can grow as large as 15 pounds. Spiny Lobsters are nocturnal and emerge from their hiding spots during the night to forage on their favorite foods including crabs, clams, snails, and urchins.
Female lobsters carry their bright orange eggs on the underside of the tail. They release between 500,000 and 1.7 million eggs each time they spawn that will hatch after four weeks. Once hatched, the larvae travel long distances as plankton in currents before settling in shallow water nursery habitats. As they mature, they’ll migrate from the inshore nursery habitats to offshore reefs.