Latin name: Homarus gammarus
Global Distribution: Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea and the northwest of the Black Sea
UK Distribution: All British and Irish Coasts
Size: 1m, 50cm is more common (length), 6kg
Diet: Benthic invertebrates, including crabs, molluscs, sea urchins, starfish and polychaete worms.
Habitat: Continental shelf at depths of 0-150m, usually preferring 50m or above. Prefer rock or hard mud.
Common lobsters, also called European lobsters, are large crustaceans with conspicuous claws. These claws are asymmetrical; the larger claw, with bumps on its inner edge, is the ‘crusher’ claw and is used to crush prey, and the smaller claw, the ‘cutter’, has a sharp inner edge to hold or tear prey. Common lobsters are very similar to their closest relative, the american lobster, Homarus americanus. Homarus gammarus can be distinguished by the lack of spines on its rostrum (an extension of the shell above the eyes), white-tipped spines on its claws, and a creamy white/ pale red colour on the underside of its claws.
European lobsters typically reproduce during the summer soon after the female has moulted. The female carries the eggs for up to a year. Hatchlings drift in the ocean currents for between 15-35 days before returning to the seabed as juveniles. Little is known about what they get up to between this point and when they emerge as adults, only that they can dig extensive burrows.
- Contrary to popular belief their exoskeletons are normally blue, not red. The red colour from cooked lobster is due to the breaking down of a protein complex which normally suppresses the red pigment.
- There have been deliberate attempts to introduce this species to New Zealand, with 1 million larvae released from 1904-1914 in one unsuccessful attempt.
- Hybrids between Homarus gammarus and Homarus americanus have been created in laboratory conditions, but this is unlikely to happen in the wild as there is no overlap in species range.
- Even expert crustacean biologists find it difficult to distinguish this species from the american lobster Homarus americanus, which is worrying given that the latter could easily become invasive in the UK.