Langouste Spiny lobsters, also known as langustas, langouste, or rock lobsters, are a family (Palinuridae) of about 60 species of achelate crustaceans, in the Decapoda Reptantia. Spiny lobsters are also, especially in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and The Bahamas, called crayfish, sea crayfish, or crawfish ("kreef" in South Africa), terms which elsewhere are reserved for freshwater crayfish.
The body of a spiny lobster ranges from 15 to 80 centimeters (6–31 inches) long and is covered with hard overlapping segments which give it a tropical fish-like appearance. It has very large front claws, which are much enlarged, with sharply pointed, barbed spines which deter predators.
Spiny lobsters usually live in crevices or burrows on the floor of the sea, often near coral reefs, and are ambush predators that feed mostly at night. They rarely travel far, and if they are separated from their home they will eventually die. Spiny lobsters are capable of making the same color changes as true lobsters.
The main predators of spiny lobsters are sharks, other crustaceans, birds, seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales, and even other humans. Humans hunt them both for food and as fishing bait. Methods used to catch them include fish traps, spearguns, and lobster pots.
Spiny lobsters go through a 28-day larval period before settling into their adult form at around 4–6 months of age. They mate during October through February, but actual littering does not occur until December. Females will carry the fertilized eggs attached to their swimmerets for 10 months before releasing them into the water, where they hatch after about 6 days.
Spiny lobsters are caught in lobster traps, pots, and baited lines by commercial fishermen and recreational anglers who seek them both as food and as fishing bait. Spiny lobsters are considered a delicacy worldwide, especially in Australia where they are caught off the coast of Queensland using lobster pots or traps, which are much smaller than those used to catch true lobsters. They are also fished commercially in New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and The Bahamas.
Spiny lobsters have mutually incompatible mating strategies, the sessile strategy involves only males defending territory to attract females, while the mobile strategy involves moving between different habitats to find mates.
Spiny lobsters are capable of making the same color changes as true lobsters, but they achieve this through hormone control, not chromatophore relocation. This ability is apparently restricted to juveniles under around 25 mm carapace length.