Southern Rock Lobster live in a variety of reef habitats, ranging from shallow rock pools, out to the continental shelf. Lobsters vary in colour from usually reddish-purple in shallow water, to purple and creamy-yellow in deeper offshore waters.
Lifecycle of the Southern Rock Lobster
Mating occurs during the months of April to July, with most eggs hatching between September and October. The eggs are extruded from a genital opening at the base of the third pair of walking legs. Fertilisation occurs externally and the fertilised eggs are carried under the tail of the female for 4-6 months. A large female can carry up to 400,000 eggs.
Female lobsters carrying eggs are known as ‘in berry’ or ‘berried’. These lobsters are totally protected in South Australian waters. They must be handled with care and returned to the water immediately.
Rock lobsters have several recognisable life stages.
After hatching, the planktonic larvae (phyllosomes) disperse widely with the ocean currents and have been located hundreds of kilometres offshore. This phase of the lobster life cycle lasts between 9 and 20 months, after which the phyllosomes change (metamorphosis) into transparent puerulus, which resemble miniature lobsters in shape. Puerulus settle in inshore reef areas and, soon after settling, moult into bottom dwelling juvenile lobsters.