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 photos copyright John P. Hoover unless otherwise credited

Two interesting lobsters not in Hawaii's Sea Creatures
Below: the Bishop Museum's older lists of Hawaiian lobsters and other lobsterlike crustaceans
Palinuridea (lobsters)
Thalassinidea (lobsterlike crustaceans)


Victoria Martocci

Panulirus femoristriga
(Von Martens, 1872)
     This Indo-Pacific spiny lobster has not been officially recorded from Hawaii, but photographs by Victoria Martocci taken off Lanai in about 50 ft. leave no doubt that it is here. Numerous conspicuous white spots on the tail segments easily distinguish it from the other two Hawaiian spiny lobsters, P. marginatus and P. penicillatus. At least one other recent photograph of this species is known from O`ahu, and Pauline Fiene reports having seen about 5 single individuals at various times off Maui over the last 17 years. Are these waifs, or is the species reproducing here? One of the individuals Victoria photographed is clearly carrying eggs, so perhaps it is reproducing. On the other hand, it might be possible that a female lobster in the absence of a male could still produce infertile eggs. Or, conceivably, Victoria's berried female could have mated with a male of another Hawaiian species. A common name often used for femoristriga is "Stripe-Leg Spiny Lobster," but the Hawaiian P. penicillatus also has striped legs, thus the Australian name "Blue-Spot" is better for local consumption. There is some question about the range of the species, but it occurs with certainty in Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Irian Jaya, Vietnam, the Maldive Islands, and the Marquesas in French Polynesia.

For more photos, see: http://decapoda.free.fr/illustration.php?n=4&sp=555

If you see any of these lobsters in Hawai`i, please let me know and if possible send photos. Thanks!

UPDATE 9 July 2014 - Matthew Iacchei of the Univ. of Hawaii has confirmed the ID by means of DNA and will submit a paper later this summer. He also adds this interesting tidbit: "Just today someone emailed me a photo of another species that hasn't been seen in Hawai'i before to my knowledge - Panulirus versicolor." (see below)

Blue-Spot Spiny Lobster                                                                               Victoria Martocci

Panulirus versicolor
(Latreille, 1804)
    Tate Marks found the lobster below at a depth of around 70 feet off Kona in the summer of 2013. Realizing it was unusual, Tate contacted retired DAR biologist Bill Puleloa, who notified lobster specialist Matthew Iacchei of the Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa. Matt identified it as P. versicolor and sent me Tate's photo (below). This is a big deal! The Painted Spiny Lobster has never before, to my knowledge, been found in Hawaii, although it is common and widely-distributed elsewhere in the tropical Indo-Pacific. Although DNA confirmation for this record is not available, the color pattern of the species is unmistakeable. Divers and snorkelers, if you see this lobster in Hawaiian waters please let me know.

                                                                   Painted Spiny Lobster                                  photo: Tate Marks


New record of Debelius's Reef Lobster in Hawaii
Enoplemotopus debelius

In May, 2004 I received the following exciting email from Ray Farm of White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

"On April 3, I was diving off the Kona coast when I found a Debelius' Reef Lobster. At the time, I did not realize how rare the species is in Hawaii. However, on identifying it from your book, "Hawai'i's Sea Creatures", I read that it had only been observed and identified in Hawaii once back in 1981. Given the very distinctive appearance of this creature, I am 100% certain of the identification. No, it was definitely not one of the guard crabs! I see them, the orbicular velvetfish, and even the occasional harlequin shrimp while nosing around with my dive light in the coral.

It was at a dive site known as 'Aquarium'. At least that is the name it is known as by the personnel at Jack's Diving Locker in Kona. It was in a small coral head ( approximately 18 to 24 inches in diameter) , which I believe was either cauliflower or antler coral. The depth was between 40 and 55 feet. This specimen was about 2 1/2 inches long. It's purple claws with golden-orange tips and the red spotted carapace-abdomen were both very distinctive and eye catching. Too bad my underwater camera got flooded in Cozumel in February."

The only other recent record I know of was by Linda Marsh of Bubbles Below Scuba Charters, who found a complete molted exoskeleton during a night dive a few years ago off the south shore of Kaua`i.

The original Hawaiian record was made off Makapu`u in 1981 in coral rubble at a depth of 70 ft. by the late Alex Kerstitch. It was from this specimen that the species was described by the Dutch crustacean expert Lipke B. Holthuis in 1983. Because German author/photographer Helmut Debelius had previously discovered the species off Bali, Holthuis named it Debelius's honor.

Some excellent photographs of this lobster can be viewed at Joseph Poupin's website:

MARCH 2005 UPDATE: Champion critter-hunter Linda Marsh has done it again! She reports seeing a live Debelius lobster at a site off Kaua`i. She tried to find it a second time but unfortunately had an inexperienced dive group with her and never got to the area with the lobster. "I sure think its a Debelius," she writes. 'Very pale blond with orange spots and very hairy. Don't have a picture of him yet." As far as I know, no one has ever photographed this species underwater in Hawaii before. Go Linda!


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  Text and photos copyright John P. Hoover unless otherwise credited