European Spiny Lobster

(Palinurus elephas)


European Spiny Lobster IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

The European Spiny Lobster can reach a body length of up to 60 cm and a weight of 8 kg but specimens longer than 40 cm are scarce. Females have longer abdomens compared to males of the same carapace length. The colour is a reddish-brown and white-yellow pattern constituting a good camouflage. The large and paired white spots on the abdomen are diagnostic.


The anterior half of the carapace is strongly armed with forward directed spines, the largest spines protect the compound eyes. The first antennae are slender, stick-like and rather short while the second antennae are strong, large and longer than the whole body. They are the main sensitive organs and their bases are armed with spines. Next to the usual decapod mouthparts there are 5 pairs of walking legs with hook-like claws, the first pair being heavier.

Ground dweller, active during night, the European Spiny Lobster hides by day in crevices and caves. It can keep conspecifics off by means of creaking with its antennae while rubbing them at each other. It feeds on algae and invertebrates like moss animals, sponges, small worms, echinoderms, mollusks, crabs and carrion. By flipping the large tail fan the European Spiny Lobster can quickly escape backwards in case of danger. Known enemies are octopus, conger and moray. The spines on carapace and antennae are the only protection spiny lobsters have.

Mating occurs in summer. Soon after it the female lays 13’000-140’000 eggs - depending on the female’s size - inseminating them instantly and carries them around for 5-9 months, between September and March - depending on temperature - attached to the abdominal legs. Hatching will last some days during winter. The flat larvae are planktonic for at least 5 months before they metamorphose and settle. After numerous moults sexual maturity is reached at a length of 20 cm in the Mediterranean Sea - at an age of 4-5 years - or 35 cm in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Life may last 10-15 years or even longer.

The European Spiny Lobster is common seafood in the Mediterranean mostly captured by means of lobster pots. Catches are less off the coasts of Portugal, Spain, France and England.

Did you know?
that the meat of the European Spiny Lobster like the one of some other crustaceans can provoke allergenic reactions to sensitive people? that in France 46 tons of the European Spiny Lobster were harvested in 2002 and 15 tons in Great Britain? that the European Spiny Lobster is protected by the Berne (Appendix III) and Barcelona (Apendices II and III) Conventions and has a close season from October to March off Corsica?


Name (Scientific) Palinurus elephas
Name (English) European Spiny Lobster
Name (French) Langouste rouge, Langouste commune
Name (German) Gewöhnliche Languste, Stachelhummer
Name (Spanish) Langosta europea, Langosta común
Local names Arabic (Morocco): Azeffane, Bakhouche
Arabic (Tunisia): Jarradh el bahr, Jrad bharr, Sid
Croatian: Jastog
Danish: Langust
Dutch: Langoest, Hoornkreeft
German (add.): Gemeine Languste, Europäische Languste, Languste
Greek: Astakis, Astakos
Italian: Aragosta mediterranea, Aligusta, Aragosta, Arigusta
Malteses: Agusta
Norwegian: Langust
Portuguese: Lagosta
Spanish (add.): Langosta espinosa europeaLangosta espinosa comúnLangosta mediterránea, Langosta, Llagosta
Swedish: Europeisk langust, Langust
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Michael Wolf



Range Along the north-eastern Atlantic coasts from southern Norway to Morocco and off the British Iles, Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands. Also present in the Mediterranean (except its eastern extremes) but lacking the Baltic Sea.
Habitat On rocky bottoms, rarely on sand, at a depth of 5-160 m, mostly between 10 and 70 m.
Wild population Populations are decreasing due to overfishing. Artificial breeding is unsuccessful.
Zoo population 0 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

European Spiny Lobster


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Georges Jansoone

Why do zoos keep this animal

The European Spiny Lobster is long-lived and can be used to illustrate a well known seafood.