Florida’s lobster season kicks off Aug. 6 and, once again, commercial fisheries are trying to get their hands on these savory critters. FIU marine scientist Heather Bracken-Grissom offers insight on one of the state’s most iconic and economically lucrative marine animals.
- Lobsters are large marine crustaceans. Lacking a spine, they have a hard, external skeleton that supports and protects its body. Lobsters have five pairs of walking legs, and they use their antennae as sensors to survive in murky marine environments.
- Several species of lobster call Florida home. Reef lobsters, slipper lobsters and spiny lobsters take up residence in Florida’s coral reefs, mangroves and the ocean floor. The Caribbean spiny lobster is the most well-known species in Florida and the most coveted for people to eat.
- Spiny lobsters are social creatures. Large groups can migrate in long lines up and down Florida’s coastline across the sea floor, according to Bracken-Grissom, an expert in lobsters, shrimp and other crustaceans. During their trek, they ward off predators by making loud, rasping sounds by rubbing their antennae against their skeleton.
- Lobsters never lose fertility. Thanks to moulting, or the shedding of the entire external skeleton, lobsters never stop growing. They can feed, grow and reproduce until they die. In fact, they don’t necessarily slow down, weaken or lose fertility with age, making it difficult to tell a lobster’s age.
- Lobsters have been here a while. Scientists have long believed lobsters first appeared on the planet about 360 millions years ago. Using fossil records and DNA testing, Bracken-Grissom and a team of international researchers found the first lobster-like crustacean appeared more than 370 million years ago. This study is part of Assembling the Tree of Life: Decapoda, a project aimed at reconstructing the evolutionary origins of crabs, shrimp and lobsters across their millions of years of existence.
- Lobsters are king in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the commercial harvest of Caribbean spiny lobster averages 6 million pounds per season, with an average annual value of $20 million. Measured in dollars, it is the state’s largest commercial fishery.