Species Details

Details of Ornate Spiny Lobster will be displayed below

Ornate Spiny Lobst...   

Common Name: Tropical rock Lobster, Ornate rock Lobster, Ornate tropical rock Lobster
Scientific Name: Panulirus ornatus
Local Name: Ihi (*)
Dhivehi Name: އިހި (*)
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Arthropoda  (Plylum)
Malacostraca  (Class)
Decapoda  (Order)
Palinuridae  (Family)
Panulirus   (Genus)

Ornate Spiny Lobster's description

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.

Ornate Spiny Lobster's facts

Did you know?

  • Spiny lobsters get their name from the forward-pointing spines that cover their bodies to help protect them from predators.
  • It takes a spiny lobster about two years to grow to the three-inch carapace legal-harvesting size and they 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, and other invertebrates.
  • Spiny lobsters reproduce in spring and summer. Females carry bright orange eggs on the underside of the tail.
  • Spiny lobsters have two large antennae. They are used for fighting and defense, and two smaller antennules, which are sensory organs that can detect chemicals and movement in the water.
  • As it grows, a spiny lobster molts and loses its hard protective exoskeleton. After molting, the lobster is soft-bodied and very vulnerable to predators for about two days until its new, larger exoskeleton forms over its growing body.
  • Once hatched, the larvae travel long distances as plankton in currents before settling in shallow water nursery habitats.
  • As spiny lobsters mature, they migrate from the inshore nursery habitats to offshore reefs.

Ornate Spiny Lobster's Behavior & Ecology

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 Lobster's Feeding

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 Lobster's Reproduction

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.

Ornate Spiny Lobster's Conservation

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.

Ornate Spiny Lobster's Relationship with Humans

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.

Ornate Spiny Lobster habitat

This species is known from slightly turbid coastal waters, sandy and muddy substrates, rocky and coral reefs; most commonly to depths of 8 m, though there are a few records documenting it to 50 m (Holthuis 1991).

Ornate Spiny Lobster threats

There are no major threat processes currently impacting this species. It is harvested throughout its range and there have been previous declines and fluctuations in landings, however the majority of operations harvesting this species are small-scale and presently well-managed with appropriate restrictions in place (Dennis, Prescott, Ye and Skewes 2006).

Ornate Spiny Lobster's status