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Spiny Lobster

Panulirus argus


  • Vary in color from almost white to dark red-orange
  • Two large, cream-colored spots on top of second segment of the tail, often with spots on other tail segments
  • Two horn-like spines over the eyes
  • Two long spiny antennae
  • Small antennae-like structures, called antennules, near larger antennae
  • Lack large front claws or pincers
  • Forward-pointing spines cover their bodies and serve as protection from predators

Similar Species

Spotted lobster, P. guttatus


Up to 18 inches in body length and 15 pounds


Hard bottom, seagrass and coral reefs of south Florida and the Caribbean.

Larvae settle in nearshore, hardbottom habitats where they grow in vegetation and then larger shelters until they migrate toward the coral reef.


Mass migrations to deeper water occurs annually in Florida during late October and early November when water temperatures begin to cool. Lobsters will gather in a single-file line which is maintained by establishing contact between the antennae of one individual and the walking legs of another, thus reducing drag resistance during migration.

They wave their long antennae to scare off predators, while smaller antennules sense movement and detect chemicals in the water.

They gather in shelters together to avoid predation, and use chemical cues released in their urine to locate these aggregations. They can also detect and avoid unhealthy lobsters based on these cues.

Nocturnal animals that come out at night to forage for food. Diet of adult spiny lobsters consists mostly of mollusks, crabs, and urchins. Spiny lobster larvae feed on soft-bodied plankton (tiny floating plants and animals).


Spawn on offshore reefs from April through October in the Florida Keys, and spawn throughout the year in the Caribbean. Females carry bright orange eggs on the underside of their tail until the eggs turn brown and larvae are released.

Additional Information

May live 15 years or more, but there is uncertainty regarding this estimate due to difficulty ageing this species.

Egg bearing females must be released.

Recreational Regulations