domesticated lobsters

Ornate rock lobster larvae. Image: Mike Hall.

A female ornate rock lobster born and reared in the seawater precinct of AIMS' headquarters in Townsville has hatched eggs to produce the second generation of lobsters fully reared in captivity.

Lobsters, also known as crayfish, are very difficult to breed in captivity because of a long and complex larval stage that involves more than a dozen moults between egg and juvenile over many months. Since these animals normally develop in oceanic nurseries far from the coast, land-based aquaculture requires special attention to water quality and suitable diets.

Despite the difficulty posed by their complex life cycle, lobsters are a high-value product with huge established markets in Asia and hence high potential to enhance economic activity and employment in regional Australia. The production of a second generation animal demonstrates that these animals can be fully domesticated and opens the way to selective breeding, where desirable traits are bred into captive lineages.

This latest advance was built on AIMS' expertise in crustacean husbandry, microbiology and nutrition. Previous benchmarks include spawning lobsters "on demand" rather than seasonally, identification and control of a new microbial disease, and rearing of larvae on formulated artificial diets (a break-through reported last year).  The net result of passing these milestones is the production of the first second-generation animals and current efforts are based around scaling up the level of success.