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European lobster

Homarus gammarus

Photo: European lobster
Weights and measures
Length 60 cm
Biological data
Lifespan 30 r
State of endangerment
Animal description
The European lobster, scientifically known as Homarus gammarus, is a captivating marine crustacean that has intrigued and sustained humans for centuries. Distinguished by its robust body and striking coloration, this species is not only a culinary delicacy but also an essential component of the marine ecosystem in the waters around Europe.

Physical Description

The European lobster boasts a substantial, muscular body covered by a hard exoskeleton that provides protection against predators. Typically, this exoskeleton showcases a deep blue hue, interspersed with spots of a brighter hue, although color variations can occur, with some individuals displaying shades of yellow, orange, or even completely white due to rare genetic mutations. The creature's most distinguishing features are its two large claws, which serve different purposes: the heavier, more robust "crusher" claw is used to break open hard-shelled prey such as crabs or mollusks, while the finer "cutter" claw is more suited for tearing softer food items.

The lobster's anatomy includes a series of jointed limbs and an elongated body divided into two main sections: the cephalothorax (head and thorax combined) and the abdomen. The cephalothorax houses the lobster's brain, stomach, and most of its sensory organs, including its compound eyes, which are highly sensitive to movement and light, allowing it to navigate the murky depths of its habitat. The abdomen, on the other hand, is primarily involved in locomotion, culminating in a fan-like tail used for swift backward escapes.

Habitat and Distribution

Homarus gammarus is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from the coasts of Norway and the British Isles, down to the Azores and Morocco. It favors rocky substrates and complex seabed structures, such as crevices and burrows, where it can hide from predators and ambush prey. European lobsters typically inhabit waters up to 150 meters deep but have been found at depths of up to 500 meters.

Diet and Behavior

The diet of the European lobster is omnivorous, consisting of a wide range of food items including fish, smaller crustaceans, mollusks, and occasionally seaweed and other marine plants. It is a nocturnal predator, leaving its shelter at dusk to hunt and feed throughout the night, returning to its hideout by dawn.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

The reproduction cycle of the European lobster begins with a complex courtship ritual, which can include battles among males for access to females. Females carry the fertilized eggs under their abdomen for up to 11 months before releasing the larvae into the water column. These larvae go through several planktonic stages before settling on the ocean floor and gradually morphing into juvenile lobsters. The lifespan of a European lobster can exceed 20 years, during which it continues to grow, molting its exoskeleton periodically to accommodate its increasing size.

Conservation Status

The European lobster is subject to fishing pressure throughout its range, leading to concerns about the sustainability of its populations. Conservation efforts include size limits, seasonal closures, and the establishment of marine protected areas to ensure healthy breeding stocks. Additionally, aquaculture initiatives are being explored as a means to supplement wild catches and reduce fishing pressure on natural populations.

In summary, the European lobster is a fascinating species with a complex biology and an important role in the marine ecosystem and human culture. Its management and conservation are crucial to ensuring that this magnificent creature continues to thrive in the oceans around Europe.
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