California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus

About this species

California spiny lobster (Photo: Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences)

Palinuridae, a family of spiny or rock lobsters (that are not considered true lobsters!)

Monterey Bay, California to Oaxaca, Mexico


California spiny lobster can be easily identified by its two large, spiny antennae. Unlike the East coast lobster, it does not have large claws. They generally grow to 30 centimeters long but can reach up to 60 centimeters.


California spiny lobsters live among rocky reefs, from tide pools to depths of 65 meters. They occur in shallow water in spring and summer, but migrate to deeper water in fall and winter. They hide in rock crevices during the day and come out at night to feed on sea urchins, clams, mussels, and worms.


The California spiny lobster is well managed in California, where the California Department of Fish and Game sets and enforces a number of regulations pertaining to recreational fishing. It can be collected legally from October to mid-March.

About this map

The bright yellow areas in this map show reef habitat that is more suitable for California spiny lobster, while dark blue areas are less suitable. Researchers modeled suitability across all currently known reefs in the Southern California Bight (the dashed gray line shows the extent of the modeled area). The model has a spatial resolution of 200 meters and includes areas shallower than or equal to 45 meters deep.

California spiny lobsters (Photo © Jonathan Williams)

Data source: Species distribution model derived from Zellmer et al. 2019 in Frontiers in Marine Science, 6. [link]

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Amanda J. Zellmer for generously sharing this coastal marine biodiversity data.