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Panulirus argus (Latreille, 1804)
Caribbean Spiny Lobster
Like most decapods, P. argus hatches from eggs carried externally by the female for around four weeks. They begin life as a free-swimming, microscopic phyllosoma larvae. After about one year,the larvae settle in algae (Laurencia sp., Neogoniolithon sp.), in Thalassia testudinum seagrass beds or among mangrove roots. After undergoing several molts, they migrate to the coral reefs and live in holes or crevices. As they grow, they molt or shed their exoskeleton to make room for their larger bodies. As in other decapods, after molting, the new exoskleton or shell is soft, and has to harden. During this time, the lobster is highly vulnerable to predation and as a result they are usually very retiring until the new exoskleton hardens fully. The diet is mostly composed of mollusks, but they also consume detritus, vegetable material, and dead animals and fish they find on the bottom.
P. argus is a nocturnal species, taking to cover during the day. They serve as prey for skates, nurse sharks, octopuses, snappers and groupers. Although they generally prefer to remain near cover, at times groups of hundreds will line up and march across the floor off Florida and the Bahamas. The purpose of these migrations is not known, but they generally occur in the fall and may be in response to the onset of autumn storms.