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What Is a Slipper Lobster?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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The slipper lobster is a decapod, or 10-legged, crustacean in the Scyllaridae family. In the U.S., this marine creature is also known as the shovel nosed lobster, while it goes by additional names in other countries. It is found primarily in tropical waters along coastal shelves. The slipper lobster is not considered a true lobster because it lacks claws, but like the true lobster, it is edible. Generally, only the tail meat of the slipper lobster is eaten.

Identifiable features of the slipper lobster include a segmented exoskeleton, a flattened profile, and a second set of antennae that extend out from the head in large plate-like structures. The first set of antennae, called antennules, are used to help the lobster sense its environment. Six segments make up the slipper lobster's head, another eight make up the thorax, and six more complete the abdomen. Each segment of the abdomen bears a pair of pleopods, or walking legs. The remaining walking legs, or maxillipeds, extend from the thoracic segments and can also serve as mouth parts that help the lobster feed.

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Within the species of slipper lobster there are 23 genera varying in size from 2.2 inches (55 mm) long to 20 inches (50 cm) long. They can be found at depths of up to 1,600 feet (500 m). They eat mollusks and oysters, as well as other crustaceans and echinoderms, or marine animals. They rely heavily on their armored exoskeletons and their ability to hide beneath the sediment to protect them from predators.

Slipper lobsters are found in wide-ranging warm ocean habitats. Some of these habitats include the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, off the coast of East Africa, in the waters around Easter Island, off the coast of Australia, and in the warmer waters of North America. Some species of slipper lobster prefer reef habitats, while others are found in softer substrates. Reef and cave dwelling lobsters are fished by scuba divers, while others are caught by trawling boats.

The slipper lobster is called by a variety of names. In India it is confusingly referred to as a crayfish. A number of Australian varieties are referred to as "bugs," the most popular of which is the Moreton Bay bug. The French refer to the species as a locust lobster because of the clicking noise it makes. It is sometimes called a flat lobster or a flathead lobster.

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