Ornate spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus) is a large edible spiny lobster with 11 larval stages that has been successfully bred in captivity.
It has a maximum total body length of 50 cm, but usually much smaller (30 to 35 cm). It is found in shallow, sometimes slightly turbid coastal waters, from 1 to 8 m depth, with a record of 50 m deep. It inhabits sandy and muddy substrates, sometimes on rocky bottoms, often near the mouth of rivers, but also on coral reefs. Juveniles occur in holes and crevices which are partially covered by seagrass or macroalgae.
Antennular plate with 4 spines, without additional scattered small spinules in between. Third maxilliped without exopod. Abdominal somites smooth and naked, without transverse groove.
Colour: abdomen brownish or greenish grey with at most minute indistinct speckles, without transverse whitish bands. The usual large eyespot in the anterior half near the base of the pleura is accompanied by an oblique pale streak placed somewhat mediad of the eyespot. The pleura have the tips white, sometimes this white colour extends slightly up the anterior and posterior margins. Carapace with a peculiar and very characteristicx marbling of pale lines near the bases of the frontal horns. Frontal horns with irregular transverse bands above, whitish below. Legs not streaked, but with very sharply defined irregular dark spots of a bluish or brownish colour, which often form incomplete rings around the various segments. Antennal flagella distinctly ringed.
Did you know?
Lives in shallow, sometimes slightly turbid coastal waters, from 1 to 8 m depth, with a few records from depths as great as 50 m. On sandy and muddy substrates, sometimes on rocky bottom, often near the mouths of rivers, but also on coral reefs. The species has been reported as solitary or as living in pairs, but has also been found in larger concentrations. They are Omnivore.
Ornate spiny lobsters are nocturnal feeders and eat a variety of mollusks, shrimp, crabs, worms and sea urchins. They use their powerful legs to pull apart mollusks. Their main predators include triggerfish, groupers and octopuses. The mouth parts can be seen in the image below.
Ornate spiny lobsters have separate sexes and at maturity which is generally around four to five years they begin breeding. Males deposit a sperm packet on the underside of females and after they ripen they release up to 100000 eggs which are carried under the female’s tail. Females have specialized attachments (pleopods) on the underside of the tail for the eggs to hook onto. The eggs start off bright red-orange colour and as they develop so they go a dark muddy brown colour. The bright red eggs can be seen in the image below behind the pleopods. Once the eggs hatch they become planktonic, free floating in the water table for ten to eleven months. Very few of the larvae survive until adult stage.
This species has a wide geographical range in the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea and KwaZulu-Natal in the west to Japan and Fiji in the east. It is currently categorized as ‘Least Concern’ by IUCN.
Berried female lobsters and those less than 25cm in total length are protected by law in Maldives since 15 May 1993.
The Ornate spiny lobsters are eaten throughout their range and because of the outstanding taste when cooked properly are regarded as a delicacy. As a result of their habit of scavenging they are easily caught in baited traps in different regions. They are almost certainly over fished in large parts of their range.