Crayfish from the Great Barrier Reef’s clear lagoon waters.

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Panulirus ornatus, also called tropical rock lobster, ornate rock lobster, ornate spiny lobster, and ornate tropical rock lobster, is a large, edible spiny lobster with 11 stages of larvae that has been successfully bred in captivity.

In the Indo-Pacific, Panulirus ornatus lives in many places, from the Red Sea and KwaZulu-Natal in the west to Japan and Fiji in the east. Most of the time, you will find these lobsters deeper than 50 m. Most of the time, lobsters are caught with nets or spears. However, in northeast Australia, there has been a commercial fishery since 1966, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority controls how the species is caught. The species is now found in the Mediterranean, where it came from Lessepsia through the Suez Canal.

P. ornatus eats many different kinds of invertebrates, like bivalves, gastropods, and even small crustaceans. These lobsters need carotenoids for energy and for other things to work well, like reproduction, development after hatching, antioxidants, and even protection from stress. When raised in an aquaculture facility, many of these lobster species eat other crustaceans. Carotenoids, especially astaxanthin, are one of the most important parts of these feeds. Many feeds also get nutrients from blue-lipped and green-lipped mussels, but tests have shown that the amount of carotenoids in these feeds is not enough for lobsters to grow.

Panulirus ornatus moves every year from the Torres Strait to Yule Island in the Gulf of Papua in order to breed. Between the middle and end of August, when migration starts, the ovary grows, the mate, and the first eggs are laid. When the Panulirus ornatus population stops migrating and arrives on the reefs along the east coast of the Gulf of Papua, the larvae are released.

Panulirus ornatus has its breeding season from November to March or April. After moving to the Gulf of Papua, the males and females isolate based on the depth of the water. Males in shallower water, while females in deeper water, until the eggs hatch. Female Panulirus ornatus can have up to three broods, and each one gets smaller than the last.

Most adults who can reproduce are three years old. Males that are mating are usually bigger than females, with carapaces that are 100–150 mm long compared to 90–120 mm for females. After breeding, there is high mortality in breeding adults.

Adults that have bred do not travel back to where they bred. There is reproductive migration across the Gulf of Papua so that larvae can be spread by ocean currents near the Torres Strait. Panulirus ornatus larvae live all along the eastern coast of Australia, but when they are young, they have to move to the northern Torres Strait to live there as adults. From there, they stay in the same reef complex for 1–2 years, until they are old enough to breed and join the annual mass migration to breed.

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