Panulirus versicolor (Latreille)
Arthropod - Crustacean
Painted Crayfish, Marine Crayfish or Spiny Lobster;
Banagan (Tagalog, Ilonggo, Cebuano)
Least Concern (IUCN)
This beautiful lobster has a maximum length of 30 centimeters and a weight of 950 grams (nearly a kilo). It has a cylindrical carapace that is armed with blackish spines of various sizes. The carapace has dark-blue ground color decorated with irregular white lines. The abdomen has a central white band on the dorsal surface and a marginal dark blue on the posterior margin of each segment. The first antenna, walking legs and swimmerets have longitudinal white lines. The tail fans are bluish in color and fringed with white lines and are often used for fast escape.
The lobster eats a variety of fish, shellfish, and other marine animals of suitable size that it can capture. The amount of food eaten varies with water temperature and seems to be affected by moulting (shedding of outgrown shell). The large claws are used for catching and holding live preys but not for crushing or tearing. Hard-shelled preys are held by the mouth parts and bitten off along the shells’ edges until the soft parts are exposed.
Mating usually occurs during summer, just a few hours after the moulting of mature female lobster while her shell is still very soft. The male, about the same size as the female and with a fairly hard shell, transfers the sperm to the female’s sperm sac located between the bases of the last two pairs of legs. The transfer is done in less than 5 minutes. The live sperm remains in the sac until the female moults after one or more years later. Then, eggs are released through two small openings located at the bases of the second pair of walking legs, are fertilized as they pass over the sperm sac, and are fastened to the swimmerets. The “berried” or egg-bearing females carry the external eggs for about a year until the embryos are fully developed and ready to be hatched.
The spiny lobster is mostly found in rocky areas and sheltered edges of protected reefs washed by strong currents of water. It is commonly caught by trapping using the lobster pot or big baskets baited with crab or by spear gun during diving. On moonless night, local fishermen who use ‘kapandra’ (diving using a long hose connected to a compressor instead of scuba) when diving utilize artificial light to attract this lobster making it easy to catch. This tasty lobster is very expensive when sold in the market and restaurants. It is exported by air to the U.S.A. and Japan in headless-chilled condition. Lobster farming has not been successful yet in the Philippines unlike in other countries.