Tropical Rock Lobster (Painted and Ornate)
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Distribution – The Tropical Rock Lobster (Painted and Ornate) is found from north-western Australia (Ningaloo region), across northern Australia, down as far south as Sydney on the east coast (been recorded as far south as Albany on the west coast). Lives in depths of 1 to 200 metres (most common in depths of 20 metres), inhabiting a range of reef habitats along the continental shelf, often in caves, holes and crevices.
Size – Fast growing, to 20cm carapace length (50cm total length).
Characteristics – The Tropical Rock Lobster’s colour varies from a greenish blue to reddish brown and they have extremely long and flexible antennae. Each of the abdominal segments are smooth and have large pale spots on either side (2nd to 4th segment have an extra spot) and their eyes are surrounded by blue and pink rings.
Confusing species – very similar to the Western Rock Lobster (Panulirus cygnum) however this species does not occur on the east coast. Range overlaps with the Eastern Rock Lobster (Jasus verreauxi) but is easily distinguished by colouration and the presence of two very long forked antennules located between the antennae. These are not present on the Eastern Rock Lobster.
Fishing tips – Free diving (snorkelling) is the best method of capture, as the Tropical Rock Lobster rarely enter conventional lobster traps, which are commonly used to capture Eastern or Southern Rock Lobsters. Look for holes or caves with two entrances under large rocks or coral bomboras. They can also be found early morning or late afternoon on exposed sandy patches.