European Lobster

(Homarus gammarus)


European Lobster IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The European Lobster is usually captured at a size of 23-38 cm and a weight of 0.7-2.2 kg, but old specimens can be 60 cm long and weigh 9 kg because they moult throughout their lives. During moulting the skin is soft and vulnerable. It needs three weeks to harden by incorporating calcium into it partly taken from a stony mass in the stomach reabsorbed prior to moulting. The colour is bluish, the lateral and ventral sides are marbled in ochre, the antennae are orange. The skin is smooth.


Below the compound eyes and the frontal projection of the carapace, called the rostrum, there is a first pair of small forked antennae, a second pair of long simple antennae, three pairs of mouth parts and three pairs of maxillipeds. The forceps on the first walking legs are very large and somewhat flattened. One being larger for defence the other being smaller for feeding. The third and fourth pairs of walking legs also have but inconspicuous forceps the reminder two pairs have none. There are six pairs of swimming legs to the abdomen which is not covered by the carapace. The first one being transformed to gonopods in the male and the last one called uropods form, together with the telson, the tail fan. The gills are fixed to the base of the walking legs and hidden by the carapace. The male is slimmer and has larger forceps than the female.

The European Lobster feeds on a variety of ground dwelling invertebrates like crabs, mollusks, sea urchins, polychaete worms and starfish, but occasionally also fishes, plants and carrion. It can be cannibalistic. After moulting sea urchins and starfish are preferred, as a source of calcium. At low temperature, like in winter, it eats less. Natural enemy is the octopus. In case of danger it can escape quickly backwards by flipping its tail fan. During summer it lives in shallow waters but retreats to deeper waters in winter.

The European Lobster is nocturnal and is hiding in its hole during the day. It is solitary and establishing a territory. In July or August (February to April in the Adriatic Sea) it looks for a mate along migration corridors. The female attaches the 10’000-100’000 eggs (only 2-3 will reach adulthood) to its abdominal legs and carries them for 10-11 months. Females breed only once every two years. The newly hatched larvae spend 2-3 weeks in the plankton before they settle down to borrow in the ground. At the age of 2 years and a carapace length of 15 mm they dislocate to a shelter on rocky substrate. Maturity is reached at the age of about 6 years and at a length of 18-20 cm. The largest specimens are more than 50 years old and just moult every other year.

Lost limbs are regenerated within a few moults.

Did you know?
that cooked European Lobsters are red because one decay product of the naturally blue body pigment crustacyanine, which is unstable at high temperatures, is the red-orange carotenoid astaxanthine? that the European Lobster is most easily captured during summer when searching for mates? that a minimum carapace length of 87 mm is required for the European Lobster being captured off the British Isles? that about 2-3 thousand tons of European Lobsters are harvested annually? that in 1931 a giant European Lobster being 1.26 m long and weighing 9.3 kg was captured off Cornwall?


Name (Scientific) Homarus gammarus
Name (English) European Lobster
Name (French) Homard européen
Name (German) Europäischer Hummer
Name (Spanish) Bogavante, Abricanto, Homar, Llangant, Lubricante
Local names Arabic (Morocco): Taroucht
Arabic (Tunisia): Saratan il bahr
Danish: Hummer
Dutch: Europese kreeft, Zeekreeft
French (Monaco): Leguban
Greek: Astakós
Italian: Astice europeo, Elefante di mare, Lupicante, Lupo di mare, Gambero marino
Maltese: Liunfant
Norwegian: Europeisk hummer
Portuguese: Labugante, Lavagante, Navegante
Russian: Omar
Serbian: Hlap
Turkish: Istakoz, Stacoz
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Bart Braun



Range In the eastern Atlantic Ocean from the Lofoten Islands in northwestern Norway to the Azores and Morocco. Also in the Mediterranean Sea west of Crete and in the northwestern parts of the Black Sea, but not in the Baltic Sea.
Habitat On hard surfaces like rocks and hard mud, in crevices to the ground. Down to 150 m depth but usually 20-60 m deep in cool to temperate waters.
Wild population Wild European Lobsters are frequently captured by means of lobster pots. Economically important, lobster fishery is regulated by minimal size requirements. Nevertheless, populations are decreasing, and the species already has disappeared in some regions. Populations are genetically isolated from each other. Farming lobsters is unfeasible because of their territorial aggressiveness.
Zoo population 3 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

European Lobster


How this animal should be transported

The European Lobster is hardy and can survive several days in small tanks with some seawater.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Georges Jansoone

Why do zoos keep this animal

The European Lobster is spectacular because it is one of the largest arthropods. Rarely colour variants are displayed being white, orange, red or blue and white. It is long-lived and may survive most vertebrates. This makes it favourable as a personalized exhibit.