Spiny lobsters, also known as rock lobsters are a family (Palinuridae) of about 45 species of achelate crustaceans, in the Decapoda Reptantia. Sometimes, spiny lobsters are, confusingly, called crawfish or sea crayfish.
Although they superficially resemble true lobsters in terms of overall shape, and having a hard carapace and exoskeleton, the two groups are quite unrelated. Spiny lobsters can be easily distinguished from true lobsters by their very long, thick, spiny antennae, and by their complete lack of claws (chelae); true lobsters have much smaller antennae and claws on the first three pairs of legs, with the first being particularly enlarged. Like true lobsters, however, spiny lobsters are edible and are an economically significant food source; they are the biggest food export of the Bahamas .
The furry lobsters (e.g. Palinurellus) are sometimes separated into a family of their own, the Synaxidae, but are usually considered members of the Palinuridae. The slipper lobsters (Scyllaridae) are their next closest relatives, and these two or three families make up the Achelata. Genera of spiny lobsters include Palinurus and a number of anagrams thereof: Panulirus, Linuparus, etc. (Palinurus was also a helmsman in Virgil's Æneid.)
Spiny lobsters are found in almost all warm seas, including the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, but are particularly common around Australasia (Jasus novaehollandiae and Jasus edwardsii) and South Africa (Jasus lalandii). Spiny lobsters tend to live in crevices of rocks and coral reefs, only occasionally venturing out at night to seek snails, clams, crabs, sea urchins or carrion to eat. Sometimes, they migrate en masse, in long files of lobsters across the sea floor. Potential predators may be deterred from eating spiny lobsters by a loud screech made by the antennae of the spiny lobsters rubbing against a smooth part of the exoskeleton .
Last updated: 10-17-2005 00:20:17