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What are Spiny Lobsters?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Images By: n/a, Tupungato, Anna
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Spiny lobsters are aquatic crustaceans similar to true lobsters, such as those referred to as Maine or New England lobsters. They are typically found in warm waters around Australia, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, around the state of Florida in the United States (US), and the Caribbean. While similar in appearance to other lobsters, spiny lobsters are only distantly related and have several distinct differences, including a lack of large claws and much larger antennae. The spiny lobster is quite edible and delicious and is usually prepared much like other lobsters for eating.

Lobsters are crustaceans that typically live in oceans, lakes, and rivers, with long armored bodies and multiple legs. Some lobsters have claws, with true lobsters having large front claws, and long antennae that are used in sensing their surroundings and fending off predators. Spiny lobsters, sometimes called rock lobsters, are brown or orange in color and often have spots of bright colors such as green and yellows. They lack the large front claws typical of other types of lobster but have much larger antennae.

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The bodies and antennae of spiny lobsters are covered in pointy spines that help keep predators from feeding on them and lend them their descriptive name. Spiny lobsters are a major food source in areas in which they are found, especially in the Bahamas where they are one of the primary exports of the region. This has led to excessive hunting that has threatened the continued existence of spiny lobsters in the area. In other regions, such as the US Gulf Coast and Australia, they are still abundant and make for an excellent renewable food source.

There is some evidence to indicate that spiny lobsters are social creatures, and they have been witnessed moving together across the sea floor in long lines during migration. Dozens of them are birthed at a time; they remain in a larval stage for about one year before emerging as young lobsters. Spiny lobsters typically live in coral and rocky areas, using their appearance as natural camouflage, searching for food only at night. They typically feed on snails, crabs, and clams and may be able to detect natural magnetic fields, using the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation.

A spiny lobster is quite edible, though it has a slightly different taste than a Maine or New England lobster and lacks the large claws that often provide more meat. They are typically somewhat larger than true lobsters, however, so have more meat in their tails. A spiny lobster can be prepared similarly to a true lobster, with the tail meat excellent for searing, grilling, or baking, and the shell can be used to make lobster stock for soups. In Australia, they are often called crayfish or sea crayfish and should not be confused with American crayfish, which are more similar to small lobsters.

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