Spiny lobster

Spiny lobster

Spiny lobster ©Dominic Flint

Spiny lobster

Scientific name: Palinurus elephas
Spiny lobster, crawfish, crayfish, rock lobsters - many names, one animal! This pretty lobster was made extinct in many areas through overfishing, but is now making a slow comeback.

Species information


Length: up to 60cm

Conservation status

Classified as a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. It is also a Feature of Conservation Importance for which Marine Conservation Zones can be designated in English and non-devolved offshore waters. Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

When to see

January to December


The Spiny lobster is a crustacean, related to crabs and even barnacles. They lack the typical large pincers of Common lobsters and instead have 2 small hook-like claws. They live in crevices and caves amongst the rocks in shallow waters down to around 70m.

They get their name from the spines than cover their shell (carapace), though they are also known as crawfish, crayfish and rock lobster - depending where you are in the UK! They stay in their hidey-holes during the daytime and come out to feed at night. They are scavengers and will feast on whatever they can find, including crabs, worms, starfish and any dead animals.

How to identify

A large lobster, covered in spines but without the big claws of the common lobster. Orangey brown in colour with long antennae.


Found around the South West of England and Wales and along the West Coast of Scotland.

Did you know?

Spiny lobsters get pretty noisy during the breeding season, making a sort of "creak" noise by rubbing their antennae together to attract a mate!

How people can help

Research has shown that spiny lobster populations benefit from the designation of Marine Protected Areas. A number of Marine Conservation Zones have been designated in the South West of England to protect and recover spiny Lobster populations. We know that many lobsters will spillover into the surrounding non-protected area in search of new territories and food; giving a wider benefit and potentially supporting a small fishery if sustainably managed.