Caribbean Spiny Lobster – Detail Page

Lobster Photo credit Hans Leijnse: SHAPE/DCNA

English Name: Caribbean Spiny Lobster

Scientific Name: Panulirus argus

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Malacostraca

Order: Decapoda

Family: Palinuridae (Spiny Lobsters)

Genus: Panulirus

Other Names: Kreeft (Dutch), Krèf (Papiamentu)


Conservation Status: 

  • IUCN Red List: classified as Data Deficient.
  • CITES: not yet listed.
  • SPAW: listed in Annex III.

Island Status:

  • Common in all six Dutch Caribbean Islands, though not as common as a decade ago, due to overfishing.


The Caribbean Spiny Lobster has an average length of 20 cm (~7.9″), and a maximum length of up to 45 cm (~17.7″). It can weight up to 4.5 kg (~9.9 lbs). It has a typical lobster body shape with a segmented carapace that covers the soft body parts, jointed legs and long antennas. Its body is striped, orange-brown with white spots on the carapace and tail. Its head and legs have a bluish tint.

Distinct features: 1) it has many spines on its shell (hence its common name); 2) one of its two pairs of antennae are very long (sometimes longer than its body) and are also covered in spines; 3) it does not possess the large pinching claws of the typical American Lobster (Homarus americanus); and 4) it has four large spots on its tail; other species of spiny lobster within the Caribbean do not have them.

Life History

This species feeds on slow-moving invertebrates such as crabs, snails, sea urchins, worms and clams. They are also known to eat dead and decaying organisms. They feed at night and use contact and chemoreception to find food, and bring prey into their mouth with their front legs.

They are sexual maturity when they reach a length of about 70 to 80 mm (~2.8 to 3.1″). Mating takes place in the spring and spawning in the summer. The number of eggs varies from 200,000 to 700,000, depending on the size of the female. The eggs are fertilized externally. Their life expectancy is an average of 20 years.

Habitat: It inhabits shallow waters of reefs, rocky areas and seagrass beds. During the day hides in crevices and among rocks. Females migrate to deeper waters to spawn.

Distribution: Caribbean spiny lobster live in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico, as far north as Bermuda and as far south as Brazil.

Local Research and Conservation Efforts

Spiny lobsters receive special protection within the marine protected areas of our islands, where fishing of Spiny lobsters is strictly controlled.

Did You Know?

  • As Caribbean Spiny Lobsters grow, they shed their carapace so that a new carapace can grow and cover their larger body. This process is called molting. Molting takes place on average four times a year, but reduces in frequency as the lobster ages.
  • Unlike the typical American Lobster (Homarus americanus), which defends it selves with its large claws, spiny lobsters defend themselves with their large antennas and deter predators with the many spines on their carapace.
  • Caribbean Spiny Lobsters are very social and live in groups that, typically in autumn, have migratory marches to deeper water where they all walk in line. When one lobster is attacked, the other members of its groups will help defend it.