SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.47 número4First report of marine Gastrotricha from Chilean beachesDifferential expression of immune response genes in Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas spat, fed with dinoflagellates Gymnodinium catenatum and Prorocentrum lima índice de autoresíndice de materiabúsqueda de artículos
Home Pagelista alfabética de revistas  

Servicios Personalizados




Links relacionados

  • En proceso de indezaciónCitado por Google
  • No hay articulos similaresSimilares en SciELO
  • En proceso de indezaciónSimilares en Google


Latin american journal of aquatic research

versión On-line ISSN 0718-560X

Lat. Am. J. Aquat. Res. vol.47 no.4 Valparaíso set. 2019 

Short Communication

Occurrence of Panulirus meripurpuratus and Panulirus laevicauda (Decapoda: Achelata: Palinuridae) in Bahía de la Ascensión, México

Patricia Briones-Fourzán1 

Cecilia Barradas-Ortiz1 

Fernando Negrete-Soto1 

Iris Segura-García2 

Enrique Lozano-Álvarez1 

1Unidad Académica de Sistemas Arrecifales, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Puerto Morelos, México

2Smithsonian Marine Station, Smithsonian Institution, Fort Pierce, FL, USA


The Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus (Latreille, 1804), previously considered to range from North Carolina, USA, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and throughout the wider Caribbean region, was recently divided into two species based on morphology and coloration: Panulirus meripurpuratusGiraldes & Smyth, 2016 in Brazil, and P. argus north of the Amazon-Orinoco River plume. Here we report on the presence of two individuals of P. meripurpuratus and four of Panulirus laevicauda (Latreille, 1804), another species typical of Brazil, in Bahía de la Ascensión, Mexico. This bay is located in the area where the Caribbean current - the main route by which South Atlantic water can reach this coast after entering the Caribbean basin through the Lesser Antillean passages - impinges the Mexican Caribbean coast before turning north to give rise to the Yucatan Current. The potential for larval retention is increased in this area, potentially explaining the episodic occurrence of Brazilian spiny lobster species in Bahía de la Ascensión.

Keywords: Palinuridae; spiny lobsters; connectivity; dispersal; Caribbean Current; Mexican Caribbean

Spiny lobsters (Crustacea: Decapoda: Achelata: Palinuridae) are marine megacrustaceans that constitute valuable fishing resources and play important roles as mesopredators in all tropical and subtropical ecosystems in which they dwell (Phillips et al, 2013).

Until recently, the spiny lobster genus Panulirus was thought to be represented by four species in the western Atlantic region. Panulirus laevicauda, occurring from Florida to Brazil but present only in sufficient numbers to support a long-term fishery in Brazil, Panulirus echinatus, confined to the northeast of Brazil and the mid-Atlantic islands, P. guttatus, an obligate reef-dweller mainly distributed in the wider Caribbean region north from Florida to Venezuela-Surinam, and P. argus, presumably with the broadest latitudinal range, from Bermuda and North Carolina, USA, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Holthuis, 1991). Since the late 1990s, however, several studies argued for the splitting of P. argus into two distinct subspecies or species based on genetic evidence (e.g., Sarver et al., 1998, 2000; Naro-Maciel et al., 2011; Tourinho et al., 2012). Panulirus argus westonii, a provisional name proposed by Sarver et al. (1998) for the Brazilian subspecies, remained a nomen nudum (Chan, 2010; WoRMS, 2018a). More recently, Giraldes & Smyth (2016) divided P. argus into two separate species based on morphology and patterns of coloration: P. argus north of the Amazon-Orinoco River plume, and Panulirus meripurpuratus in Brazil. This new species has been recognized (WoRMS, 2018b).

Bahía de la Ascensión is a large, shallow bay located on the eastern margin of the Yucatan Peninsula, Caribbean coast of Mexico, where an important fishery for P. argus is based on the extensive use of “casitas” (Briones-Fourzán et al., 2000). Casitas are large, low-lying artificial shelters that can harbor multiple lobsters and are deployed on seagrass, sandy or hard bottoms within the bay (Briones-Fourzán et al., 2000). Panulirus guttatus occurs on the coral reefs along the mouth of the bay, but this obligate reef-dweller does not occupy casitas given its habitat specialization. On several occasions, between 2008 and 2017, thousands of P. argus were sampled in this bay for various research purposes, obtaining also four individuals of P. laevicauda (two females and two males) as well as two female lobsters that fit the description of P. meripurpuratus provided by Giraldes & Smyth (2016) (Fig. 1).

Figure 1 Individual lobsters collected in Bahía de la Ascensión, Mexico. From left to right: Panulirus meripurpuratus, P. argus, and P. laevicauda

These two female lobsters of P. meripurpuratus have the meri of pereiopods of a solid purple color; abdominal somites 2-5 with a shallow and incomplete transverse groove; a line of very small white spots (not a continuous line as in P. argus) along the posterior region of each abdominal somite, and the membranous part of the greenish tail fan with two black transverse bands located distally and proximally, and a brownish central band (Fig. 1). One specimen of P. laevicauda was extracted directly from a casita in the bay and the other lobsters were collected at the landing site, where individual fishers allowed us to measure and sex the lobsters upon landing their catch and provided information on the fishing site and type of habitat in which the casitas with the lobsters were located (Table 1). Figure 2 depicts the location of Bahía de la Ascensión with the indication of the casitas where these lobsters were found.

Table 1 Summary of information on two Panulirus meripurpuratus and four P. laevicauda specimens collected in Bahía de la Ascensión, Mexico. Lobsters sampled at the landing site were captured by commercial fishers, which allowed us to inspect and measure the specimens, and provided information on the collection site (CL: carapace length, in mm; F: female, M: male). 

Species Sex CL Bottom type Date Sampling remarks
P. laevicauda F 40.0 Coarse sand/seagrass 13-11-2008 Sharing a casita with 23 P. argus
P. meripurpuratus F 76.6 Hard bottom 10-07-2009 Sampled at the landing site
P. laevicauda M 68.3 Sand/seagrass/algae 13-07-2009 Sampled at the landing site
P. laevicauda F 82.7 Sand/seagrass/algae 03-07-2010 Sampled at the landing site
P. laevicauda M 71.3 Hard bottom 03-07-2010 Sampled at the landing site
P. meripurpuratus F 80.4 Seagrass 14-05-2017 Sampled at the landing site

Figure 2 Schematic map of Bahía de la Ascensión, Mexico, showing the approximate location of casitas in which, the lobsters were found: Panulirus meripurpuratus (red stars) and P. laevicauda (yellow stars). The series of black patches along the mouth of the bay denotes the coral reef tract, where P. guttatus occurs. The dotted line indicates the 200 m isobath. The inset shows the location of Bahía de la Ascensión (red arrow) on the Caribbean coast of Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula). 

Spiny lobsters have a high potential for dispersal because of their protracted larval phase with multiple planktonic stages (phyllosomata) which, in the genus Panulirus, can last for five to nine months (Phillips et al., 2013). Here, the first record of P. meripurpuratus from the Caribbean region, after the recognition of these two species, is presented. Sarver et al. (2000) reported a greater genetic affinity to “P. argus westonii” in preserved tissue samples from three individuals previously caught by Silberman et al. (1994), two off Miami (USA) and one off Venezuela, but did not provide a description of the specimens. In eastern Africa, Marchal (1968) and Freitas & Castro (2005) reported the presence of adult individuals of P. argus, which according to Giraldes & Smyth (2016) exhibited the characteristics of P. meripurpuratus, although it is unclear whether these specimens arrived there as larvae or via anthropogenic transport (Tourinho et al., 2012).

As far as it is known, there are no established adult populations of P. laevicauda in the wider Caribbean, although there are recurrent reports of individuals of this species in this region. For example, Boone (1922) reported on two specimens of P. laevicauda found in Key West, USA, and Moore (1962) observed several individuals in Palm Beach, Florida, but commented that its occurrence was very rare. Out of 3,549 lobster tails sampled from commercial catches at Puerto Morelos, Mexico, five (0.14%) were of P. laevicauda (Padilla-Ramos & Briones-Fourzán, 1997). Baisre & Ruiz de Quevedo (1982) described two phyllosoma stages of P. laevicauda from plankton samples taken near Cuba, but mentioned the absence of adult populations in the Caribbean region. More recently, out of 2,280 mid-to-late stage palinurid phyllosomata collected in oceanic waters off the Mexican Caribbean coast, three were identified as P. laevicauda (Muñoz de Cote-Hernández, 2016), and out of nearly 1,500 early to mid-stage palinurid phyllosomata, also collected off this coast by Canto-García et al. (2016), none were P. laevicauda. Interestingly, these authors, however, reported using three adult P. laevicauda from Bahía de la Ascensión (no collection dates were provided) as references for DNA barcoding of their larvae.

Episodic recruitment events, which have been invoked as an explanation for the rare occurrences of P. laevicauda in the Caribbean region (Moore, 1962; Sarver et al., 2000), could also explain the presence of P. meripurpuratus along the Mexican Caribbean coast. For example, a hydrographic model revealed that a small percentage of phyllosomata originated outside the Caribbean basin could arrive at the Mexican Caribbean coast within the larval duration of P. argus (Briones-Fourzan et al., 2008). Moreover, and as evidenced by the trajectories of several satellite-tracked drifters, particles can pass close to the Mexican Caribbean coast within five to nine months after being released outside the Lesser Antilles (Fig. 3). The Caribbean Current is the major route by which South Atlantic water (via the north Brazil/Guiana Current) can reach the coast of Mexico after entering the Caribbean basin through the Lesser Antillean passages (Richardson, 2005). It has been postulated as a plausible transport pathway for the pelagic macroalga Sargassum from the Equatorial Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea, where large strandings of this alga have accumulated on the beaches (Putman et al., 2018). The Caribbean current flows west across the Caribbean and Cayman basins before turning northwards off the Mexican coast, giving rise to the swift Yucatan Current (Cetina et al., 2006). The latitude at which the Caribbean current meets the coast fluctuates over time between the Mexico-Belize border and Cozumel Island (Badan et al., 2005; Carrillo et al., 2015) (see Fig. 2). This variability modulates the currents near the coast, increasing the potential for larval advection north of the impingement area, and for larval retention in the area over which the current impacts the coast (Carrillo et al., 2015), i.e., where Bahía de la Ascensión (with a virtually non-existent continental shelf, see Fig. 2) is located.

Figure 3 Trajectories of several satellite-tracked drifters that passed close to the Mexican Caribbean coast within five to nine months (the typical larval duration of Panulirus spp.) after being released. Some of these drifters were released close to the northern Brazilian coast, illustrating the potential for larvae originating in Brazil to enter into the Caribbean. The red arrow denotes the location of Bahía de la Ascensión. 

Given the occasional reports of individuals of P. laevicauda in the Caribbean region, as well as the finding of individuals of P. meripurpuratus in Bahía de la Ascensión, more records of both species in the wider Caribbean region are likely to ensue. However, as is the case for P. laevicauda, persistent populations of adult P. meripurpuratus are unlikely to occur in this region, as this would require that enough individuals not only survive, but also reproduce. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to investigate how co-occurring individuals of the three species interact.


We thank the members of the Fishing Cooperative “Pescadores de Vigía Chico” for allowing us to sample their catches and fishing grounds. Julio Candela (CICESE-Ensenada, México) provided Figure 3. The lobsters were collected while conducting research projects funded by CONACYT (project 82724-Q, granted to E.L.A.) and by UNAM-DGAPA-PAPIIT (project IN206117, granted to P.B.F.).


Badan, A., Candela, J., Sheinbaum, J. & Ochoa, J. 2005. Upper-layer circulation in the approaches to Yucatan Channel. In: Sturges, W. & Lugo-Fernandez, A. (Eds.). Circulation in the Gulf of Mexico: observations and models. Geophysical Monograph Series. American Geophysical Union, Washington, 161: 57-69. [ Links ]

Baisre, J.A. & Ruiz de Quevedo, M.E. 1982. Two phyllosome larvae of Panulirus laevicauda (Latreille, 1817) (Decapoda, Palinuridae) from the Caribbean Sea with a discussion about larval groups within the genus. Crustaceana, 43: 147-153. [ Links ]

Boone, P.L. 1922. An interesting addition to the Floridian decapod crustacean fauna. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 35: 137-140. [ Links ]

Briones-Fourzán, P., Candela, J. & Lozano-Álvarez, E. 2008. Postlarval settlement of the spiny lobster Panulirus argus along the Mexican Caribbean coast: patterns, influence of physical factors, and possible sources of origin. Limnology and Oceanography, 53: 970-985. [ Links ]

Briones-Fourzán, P., Lozano-Álvarez, E. & Eggleston, D.B. 2000. The use of artificial shelters (Casitas) in research and harvesting of Caribbean spiny lobsters in Mexico. In: Phillips, B.F. & Kittaka, J. (Eds.). Spiny lobsters: fisheries and culture. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 420-446. [ Links ]

Canto-García, A.A., Goldstein, J.A., Sosa-Cordero, E. & Carrillo, L. 2016. Distribution and abundance of Panulirus spp. phyllosomas off the Mexican Caribbean coast. Bulletin of Marine Science, 92: 207-227. [ Links ]

Carrillo, L., Johns, E.M., Smith, R.H., Lamkin, J.T. & Largier, J.L. 2015. Pathways and hydrography in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Part 1: Circulation. Continental Shelf Research, 109: 164-176. [ Links ]

Cetina, P., Candela, J., Sheinbaum, J., Ochoa, J. & Badan, A. 2006. Circulation along the Mexican Caribbean coast. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111: C08021. [ Links ]

Chan, T. 2010. Annotated checklist of the world's marine lobsters (Crustacea: Decapoda: Astacidea, Glypheidea, Achelata, Polychelida). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 23: 153-181. [ Links ]

Freitas, R. & Castro, M. 2005. Occurrence of Panulirus argus (Latreille, 1804) (Decapoda, Palinuridae) in the northwest islands of the Cape Verde Archipelago (Central-East Atlantic). Crustaceana, 78: 1191-1201. [ Links ]

Giraldes, B.W. & Smyth, D.M. 2016. Recognizing Panulirus meripurpuratus sp. nov. (Decapoda: Palinuridae) in Brazil - Systematic and biogeographic overview of Panulirus species in the Atlantic Ocean. Zootaxa, 4107: 353-366. [ Links ]

Holthuis, L.B. 1991. Marine lobsters of the world: an annotated and illustrated catalog of species of interest to fisheries known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis, 125(13): 1-292. [ Links ]

Marchal, E.G. 1968. Sur la capture le long des côtes africaines de deux spécimens de Panulirus argus (Latreille). Bulletin du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 39: 1120-1122. [ Links ]

Moore, D.R. 1962. Notes on the distribution of the spiny lobster Panulirus in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Crustaceana, 3: 318-319. [ Links ]

Muñoz de Cote-Hernández, R. 2016. Distribución y abundancia de larvas filosomas intermedias y finales de langostas Achelata en el Caribe mexicano. Tesis de Maestría en Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad de México, 58 pp. [ Links ]

Naro-Maciel, E., Reid, B., Holmes, K.E., Brumbaugh, D.R., Martin, M. & DeSalle, R. 2011. Mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in spiny lobsters: population expansion, panmixia and divergence. Marine Biology, 158: 2027-2041. [ Links ]

Padilla-Ramos, S. & Briones-Fourzán, P. 1997. Características biológicas de las langostas (Panulirus spp.) provenientes de las capturas en Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, México. Ciencias Marinas, 23: 175-193. [ Links ]

Phillips, B.F., Melville-Smith, R., Kay, M.C. & Vega-Velázquez, A. 2013. Panulirus species. In: Phillips, B.F. (Ed.). Lobsters: biology, management, aquaculture, and fisheries. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 289-325. [ Links ]

Putman, N.F., Goni, G.J., Gramer, L.J., Hu, C., Johns, E.M., Trinanes, J. & Wang, M. 2018. Simulating transport pathways of pelagic Sargassum from the Equatorial Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea. Progress in Oceanography, 165: 205-214. [ Links ]

Richardson, P.R. 2005. Caribbean Current and eddies as observed by surface drifters. Deep-Sea Research Part II, 52: 429-463. [ Links ]

Sarver, S.K., Freshwater, D.W. & Walsh, P.J. 2000. The occurrence of the provisional Brazilian subspecies of spiny lobster (Panulirus argus westonii) in Florida waters. Fishery Bulletin, 98: 870-873. [ Links ]

Sarver, S.K., Silberman, J.D. & Walsh, P.J. 1998. Mitochondrial DNA sequence evidence supporting the recognition of two subspecies or species of the Florida spiny lobster Panulirus argus. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 18: 177-186. [ Links ]

Silberman, J.D., Sarver, S.K. & Walsh, P.J. 1994. Mitochondrial DNA variation and population structure in the spiny lobster Panulirus argus. Marine Biology, 120: 601-608. [ Links ]

Tourinho, J.L., Solé-Cava, A.M. & Lazoski, C. 2012. Cryptic species within the commercially most important lobster in the tropical Atlantic, the spiny lobster Panulirus argus. Marine Biology, 159: 1897-1906. [ Links ]

World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). 2018a. Panulirus argus westonii Sarver, Silberman & Walsh, 1998. []. Reviewed: 10 August 2018. [ Links ]

World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). 2018b. Panulirus meripurpuratus Giraldes & Smyth, 2016. []. Reviewed: 10 August 2018. [ Links ]

Received: October 08, 2018; Accepted: March 07, 2019

Corresponding author: Patricia Briones-Fourzán (

Corresponding editor: Ingo Wehrtmann

Creative Commons License This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.