Dr Andrew Trotter
Spiny lobsters have very high economic value that are captured and cultured in more than 90 countries. Aquaculture of spiny lobster has always been impeded by the lack of seed stock and all current industries rely of wild caught seed. Larval culture is very difficult, primarily due to the protracted larval cycle. Larval culture of spiny lobsters has been undertaken for 20 years at IMAS and three spiny lobster species have been cultured through the full larval cycle; including Jasus edwardsii, the southern rock lobster, Panulirus ornatus, the tropical rock lobster and Sagmariasus verreauxi, the eastern rock lobster(all Palinuridae). More recently IMAS has used culture techniques developed for spiny lobsters to successfully culture the slipper lobster, Thenus australiensis (Scyllaridae). It is likely that both P. ornatus and T. australiensis will be cultured commercially in the near future using technologies developed at IMAS.
Although the culture techniques are very advanced, some aspects of the larval biology are not well understood. Two of the most challenging developmental stages in the lifecycle of lobsters include metamorphosis, where a dramatic reconstruction in morphology occurs from the feeding phyllosoma larval stage to the non-feeding puerulus stage, and then the emergence from puerulus to the juvenile. During this time the digestive system transitions from processing planktonic to benthic prey with an intermediate non-feeding stage. The digestive system in particular undergoes extensive gross morphological transformation during these life stages but has never been characterised in detail in either species. A more comprehensive understanding ontogenetic changes during these life stages will provide insights/baselines to make improvements to larval and juvenile rearing, particularly in regard to health and nutrition.