What are warm water lobsters?

Warm water lobsters are found in warm waters of the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and the coast of Asia.  They have a tail and a “head” (carapace) that looks similar to those of a cold water lobster, but warm water lobsters do not have claws, and instead have long spiny antennae.  The only edible meat in a warm water lobster is found in the lobster’s tail.

Spiny Lobster

Warm water lobsters are sometimes called spiny lobsters or rock lobsters, and since they are less expensive that the more desirable cold water lobster (the classic “Maine lobster”) their tails are often frozen and served simply as “lobster tail.”  If you ever had a tough “lobster tail” served at a hotel banquet or on a mass market cruise ship, perhaps as part of a “Surf-and-Turf” platter, it was almost certainly the frozen tail of a warm water lobster, most probably a Caribbean lobster from the Bahamas or Honduras.

While often referred to as “lobster,” warm water lobsters are not closely related to the cold water Maine lobster.  For example, while the warm water Spiny lobster and the cold water Maine lobster are both crustaceans and decapods, they are from of different genus, family, and species:

Maine Lobster (Homarus americanus)

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Crustacea
Order Decapoda
Suborder Macrura Reptantia
Superfamily Nephropoidea
Family Nephropidae
Subfamily Nephropinae
Genus Homarus
Species Homarus americanus

Caribbean Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus)

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Crustacea
Order Decapoda
Suborder Macrura Reptantia
Superfamily Palinuroidea
Family Palinuridae
Genus Panulirus
Species Panulirus argus

7 Comments

  1. The resturants in Austin, TX offer either African or Australian Lobster. Are both these species “warm water” Lobsters? Are there any significant differences in taste?

    Also, other than Maine, what other “cold water” Lobsters would I look for>

  2. A good tasty Lobster always come from the coldest waters of the upper eastern cost of the Atlantic mostly in the summertime they are not as full,but that’s the tasty time….the tastier of all is the youngest Lobsters…Enjoy

  3. These warm water pups are pretty tasty. I remember visiting our daughter who then taught school in the Florida Keys many years ago. The father of one of her students, a fisherman by trade, thought quite a lot of her, and when he learned her parents were coming to visit, gave her bunches of his catch to present to us. We had lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days, until we could eat no more. That’s saying something, especially for my wife, for whom there are only two kinds of food – lobster, and all the rest! Being Marylanders in the D.C. area, we regularly ordered Maine lobsters through Finest Kind Lobsters, so we know what good lobster is. For my taste I’d pick FKL as the best, but fresh warm water lobsters second, ahead of Lord knows how old banded claw live lobsters you find in those nasty tanks in restaurants and grocery stores. Just my opinion.

  4. I agree with Craig, having lived int he keys for quite some time and eating way more then my fair share of spiny lobster I would say it is second only to dungeness crab in the OMG dept. of course in fairness my only Maine lobster has been in restaurants in Bar Harbor and while it was good, it wasn’t as good as a spiny lobster boiled in a pot off the stern 15 minutes after being caught.

  5. Craig
    I service lobster tanks in the Maryland area and have been doing this project for about 25 years.I always tell my customers not to feed the lobsters, as this could cause the waters to become polluted,and certainly have a bad effect on the lobsters.The water in the tanks needs to be balanced on a regular basis along with a proper filter to keep the lobsters alive and healthy. The stores and restaurants try to sell out weekly.That way they can keep a good tab on the product………..

  6. I live in Miami, Florida. I have eaten both maine lobsters and plenty of spiny lobsters. I prefer the warm water spiny lobster over maine. The maine lobster I can’t even eat thier claws. Taste nasty. Maybe its where I got the claws from. Once was from bubba gump shrimp, other time was from publix or winn dixie can’t remember. I also prefer snow crab over king crab. Everyone says king crab is better, but I disagree. Also don’t like clams, mussels, scallops, or oysters. But do like shrimp, grouper, snapper, salmon, catfish, talapia, flounder, mahi mahi just to give an idea on my taste buds.

  7. We just finished a Disney Cruise. I have eaten Maine lobster and now on the cruise had a nice 8 oz. warm water lobster. I have NEVER had a lobster as tasty and sweet without the rotten aftertaste of the Maine lobster as I did with the warm lobster. I will never pay the exhorbitant prices they want for Maine lobster ever again. Buy warm water the meat was sweet succulent and very tender.

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