By : Ann Kunz
Visitors to the aquarium this holiday season have been fascinated watching the female East Coast Rock Lobsters (commonly known as crayfish) in the Snorkel Lagoon Gallery brooding their eggs.
Female rock lobsters care for their eggs, which are attached to the fine sticky hairs under the tail, by aerating them with a fanning motion. This ensures a steady stream of oxygen laden water passes over the eggs.
These lobsters are said to be “in berry”, and whilst they are in berry, South African fisheries regulations prevent fishers from catching them. Although breeding peaks in summer when the crayfish season is closed (1st November to last day of February), it can occur throughout the year. The eggs hatch after approximately 90 days into larvae which look like transparent spiders.
These tiny larvae moult and change into phylisoma larvae with long, hairy legs. These larvae drift in the Agulhas current about seven months and undergo about 11 moults before they reach their final version, which is a small colourless lobster about 20mm in length. This is when they settle on the reefs.
The East Coast Rock Lobster (Panulirus homarus), which is a no-sale species in KZN, occurs between Port Elizabeth in South Africa to southern Mozambique on the east African coast. They reach a maximum age of 12 years at a weight of about 1 kg.
On your next visit to the aquarium, be sure to ask one of the staff on duty to show you where to find the ‘Mom’ lobsters.