The diet of phyllosome larvae is not well described; however, those in culture consume chaetognaths, euphausids, fish larvae, and ctenophores (Provenzano 1968; Phillips and Sastry 1980). Pueruli are non-feeding (Lyons 1980). Benthic juveniles and adults are foragers that utilize chemoreceptive setae lining the antennules and walking legs assist in locating food sources (Ache and Macmillan 1980). Panulirus argus are often the dominant carnivores within their habitats, and likely effect the population sizes of other benthic species (Berry and Smale 1980). Typical prey items include a variety of slow-moving or sedentary organisms including gastropods, bivalves, crustaceans, annelids and echinoderms. Shelled organisms are manipulated with the legs and positioned near the mouth, where powerful mandibles can then crush or chip shells to extract prey.Competitors: Competition among lobster species in Florida is thought to be of little consequence as Panulirus argus is the dominant lobster species in Florida. A congener, P. laevicauda, though sympatric, is relatively scarce and generally found only in reef habitats (Marx and Herrnkind 1986); thus, little competition likely occurs.Predators: Panulirus argus larvae are consumed by a variety of pelagic fish species (Phillips and Sastry 1980). Pueruli are consumed by fishes as well as by benthic and epibenthic organisms such as crabs and octopods (Little and Milano 1980). Later juveniles and adults are armoured against predators both by their spiny exoskeletons and by their behaviors, with rapid tail-flipping the most commonly observed escape response. Spiny lobsters also resist predation by congregating together in shelters and blocking den openings (Lipcius et al. 1983). Large predators of juvenile and adult spiny lobsters include groupers (especially goliath groupers) (Crawford and De Smidt 1922), sharks, loggerhead turtles, and octopods (Kanciruk 1980). Habitats: Spiny lobsters are gregarious and migratory, most commonly found in coastal and shallow continental waters to depths of 90 m (295 feet) or more. The life cycle consists of 5 phases, each of which is habitat-associated. The oceanic, planktonic stage is characterized by the phyllosome larva. Phyllosomes inhabit the epipelagic zone of open ocean waters where temperature and salinity are relatively constant. Optimum survival occurs when conditions are stable and nonturbid, with no environmental pollutants. The swimming postlarval stage is characterized by the puerulus postlarva, which utilizes a broad range of nearshore and estuarine habitats, but settles primarily in well-vegetated habitats such as seagrasses meadows and algal beds. Algae, particularly the red alga Laurenia spp., appear to be especially important to newly settled postlarvae. The early benthic stage is characterized by the banded coloration pattern in young juveniles, which utilize mangrove creeks and vegetated shallow water. The late juvenile stage occurs in older juveniles, which utilize seagrasses and oyster reefs for as much as 2 years before migrating as sub-adults to shallow banks in nearshore waters. The adult stage is characterized by mature adults, which utilize hardbottom, patch reefs and coral reefs (Marx and Herrnkind 1986), commonly using crevices in coral reefs, overhangs, outcroppings, and other hard substrates for shelter. Adults use softbottom habitats and seagrasses primarily during migratory periods (Herrnkind et al 1975; Kanciruk 1980). Though adults often inhabit bays and estuarine habitats, they do not typically spawn there. Spawning occurs offshore in sheltered areas having low turbidity, low wave action and adequate larval transport by currents and waves (Kanciruk and Hernnkind 1976). Lobsters longer than 20 mm aggregate in shelters within protected bays and high salinity estuaries (Olsen et al. 1975; Davis 1979). Typical shelters include sponges, corals, mangrove roots, holes, rocky outcrops, and ledges. Davis (1971) reported juvenile spiny lobsters taking shelter under sea urchins. At approximately 70-80 mm, at the onset of sexual maturity, lobsters begin the migration to nearshore and offshore reefs. More females than males migrate offshore, with females tending to migrate into deeper waters in spring and summer for mating and larval release (Lyons et al. 1981). Both sexes migrate offshore in fall and winter months as severe fall storms arrive and water temperatures begin to decrease (Davis 1977; Herrnkind 1982). On occasion, mass migration of spiny lobster occurs, with lobsters forming single-file lines that stretch long distances (Kanciruk and Herrnkind 1978; Marx and Herrnkind 1986). Offshore populations consist primarily of adults that live communally or singly in crevices of rocks and corals, with most lobsters showing high site fidelity (Herrnkind et al. 1975). Spiny lobsters are relatively selective when choosing den sites and show a preference for those that allow complete concealment, exclude large predators, and contain other lobsters (Herrnkind et al 1975). Activity Time: Juveniles and adults are primarily nocturnal, with juveniles being somewhat more nomadic (Marx and Herrnkind 1986).
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