18 Amazing Facts About Squat Lobsters

Squat lobsters are amazing crustaceans that are extremely elusive and hard to find. But we did manage to find 18 amazing facts about them. Join us on a journey to the bottom of the sea.

1. General Information

Phylum: Arthropoda 

Subclass: Eumalacostraca 

Superorder: Eucarida 

Order: Decapoda 

Suborder: Pleocyemata 

Infraorder: Anomura 

2. What Exactly is a Squat Lobster? 

Squat Lobsters are small crustaceans that closely resemble lobsters or crabs. They can be seen scurrying around reef sands and swimming to the bottom of deep trenches. Squat lobsters are small marine animals that can range from 1 to 4 inches in length. 

Today there are more than 900 identified species of Squat Lobsters, with dozens of new species being named every year. These animals are extremely elusive and good at hiding, which makes them a difficult study at times.

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Their adaptive nature also makes certain species especially hard to locate in tricky areas, such as over scalding hydrovents and underwater volcanoes.

Even with these obstacles, scientists in many countries focus on researching these unique creatures and collecting more important information.  

3. What do Squat Lobsters Look Like? 

An Elegant Squat Lobster on a crinoid
An Elegant Squat Lobster on a crinoid

These crustaceans come in a variety of bright colors. Some are red and purple, while others are decorated with various colors to fit into their specific habitat. You can find these colorful animals among sea slugs and starfish in lively reefs. They can also be seen tucking into coral for protection and hiding behind rocks.  

Squat Lobsters are characterized by their small and elongated cephalothorax (head and bodily trunk) and large front claws. These claws are used both for defense and to catch prey. They are also known for their lengthy eyelashes.  

Squat Lobsters are decapod crustaceans, which means they have ten legs. The first set is commonly longer than their body, which can make them look a little awkward. This set of legs is thought to be used for fighting and defense to help them fit in small spaces. 

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4. Is a Squat Lobster Really a Lobster? 

 Nope! While their names and looks suggest that they may be related to the lobster family, squat lobsters are more closely related to hermit and porcelain crabs. Though squat lobsters do not carry a shell with them like lobsters and other crabs, they instead have an exoskeleton that is soft and flexible, allowing them to squeeze into rock crevices. 

With their size and body type, squat lobsters resemble prawns or crawfish, so much so that they are sometimes sold as a replacement for the popular ingredient. It is said that the flavor of squat lobster is very close to that of rock lobster or soft-shell crab. No wonder it is a common dupe!  

5. Then Why the Name? 

While Squat lobsters do fit their name, why do they seem to be squatting? Do they use their legs to intimidate predators? Or perhaps they have nowhere to put them. A Squat lobster is made up of a head and thorax with various legs and appendages.

They have a tail or abdomen tucked permanently beneath them at the end of their body, making them look like they are getting into a squatting position. With that being said, I think the name is fitting. Their scientific names, which are arranged genus rather than species, are commonly named after the scientist(s) discovered the organism.  

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6. What is the Scientific Classification of Squat Lobsters? 

Squat lobsters belong to the subphylum Crustacea and to one class of scaled creatures called Malacostraca. Squat lobster species fall within two different family classifications; Chirostylidae and Galatheidae. 

The family Chirostyloidea contains: 

  • Chirostylidea, 
  • Eumunididae, and 
  • Kiwaidae.  

The family Galatheoidea contains:

  • Galatheidae, 
  • Munididae, 
  • Munidopsidae, and 
  • Porcellanidae.

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7. Can Squat Lobsters Live in Extreme Climates? 

Yes and no. Squat lobsters can be found in warm and temperate ocean climates. They can be found all over the globe, in fact, with the exception of the frigid water at the poles. Many species of squat lobsters flock to hydrovents, fissures within the seafloor that can reach temperatures up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. I would say that is pretty extreme.

16 species of squat lobsters are believed to live around vents; these species feed on the chemosynthetic bacteria found in these areas.

8. Where Do Squat Lobsters Live? 

Squat Lobsters spend the majority of their time on the seafloor. They hide under rocks and slip into crevices, making them hard to spot at times. They are also commonly found near hydrothermal vents, canyons, or seamounts.

You can also observe various species moving in large swarms throughout the water while feeding. The largest populations of Squat Lobsters can be found in the Atlantic Ocean.  

Chirostylids live mostly in deep water and have long, slender legs. 75% of all Squat Lobster species are of the family and can be found anywhere from reefs to deep trenches. Munida is the largest genus of Squat Lobsters with over 240 species. 

9. Do Squat Lobsters Eat Fish? 

Squat Lobster, St Abbs, Scotland
Squat Lobster, St Abbs, Scotland

Some species of Squat Lobsters are, in fact, large enough to prey on some kinds of fish. The diet of Squat lobsters varies from species to species. This is due to the variety of food sources and habitats that they are found in. Some are filter feeders, pulling microscopic particles from the water.

Many Squat lobsters feed on plankton and algae, explaining the phenomena of their swimming swarms. Other species can be found feeding on the decomposing matter, such as dead logs.  

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10. Can Squat Lobsters Clean Up an Entire Shipwreck? 

Various species of Squat Lobsters are special adaptations that allow them to eat dead and decaying wood. They have claws and mouthparts built for tearing off and processing strips of wood; these species also have a massive amount of gut bacteria that help them digest tough plant matter. 

11. How Long do Squat Lobsters Live? 

Among the 900 species of Squat lobsters, many are thought to live between 2 and 4 years. The M.Subugosa, which can be found off the Argentinian coast, is thought to live 7 to 8 years. 

12. Can Squat Lobsters Swim? 

Yes! While Squat Lobsters use their long legs to move around and capture food, they are also very active swimmers. 

13. How do Squat Lobsters Reproduce? 

While there is currently very little research done on the reproductive habits and mating rituals of Squat lobsters, it is known that, like most other crustaceans, they reproduce sexually and lay eggs. Once these eggs have hatched, the larvae emerge. These larvae remain in this stage for only a few days.  

14. Can we Eat Squat Lobsters? 

Yes. In many restaurants, Squat lobsters are called “langostino”, a Spanish word describing this animal that is neither lobster nor prawn. Mixed with garlic, lime juice, onions, and peppers, langostinos are added to various dishes.  

Squat lobsters are most commonly caught and farmed in Latin and South American countries. Chile, El Salvador, Argentina, Panama, and Nicaragua all engage in squat lobster farming and exporting.  

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15. What Else Eats Squat Lobsters? 

In the wild, the squat lobsters’ primary predator is fish, but eels and larger crabs also eat them. The raising of squat lobsters is not a very large business, but few farms do exist. There is also a demand for Squat lobsters because they can be used as feed within salmon and trout farms.

Squat Lobsters are high in a pigment called Astaxanthin, which helps add and preserve the healthy coloring of the fish. Squat lobsters are also used as feed in many other shrimp and fish farms. 

16. Are Squat Lobsters Endangered? 

Currently, Squat Lobsters are not endangered. Because they are a less than popular food item, they have little risk of overfishing. Like most marine life, Squat Lobsters are fairly sensitive to pollutants such as chemicals and petroleum products. 

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17. Can I Keep Squat Lobsters As Pets? 

Yes! They are certain species of Squat Lobsters that would thrive in a well-kept saltwater aquarium. They are said to be relatively easy to care for due to their scavenging nature. Squat Lobsters are also usually peaceful and would cohabitate well with a variety of other saltwater marine life.  

When considering getting Squat Lobsters for your home, it is important to consider the other marine life you keep in your tank. Certain decomposer species could be a great addition to your tank clean-up crew as well!  

18. Where Can I Go to See a Squat Lobster? 

Because the Atlantic Ocean houses some of the largest populations of Squat Lobsters, one of the best places to catch a glimpse of these little creatures could be amongst the commercial lobster traps in Cape Cod or off the coast of Maine.  

If you prefer a warmer climate, you could locate a swarm or two along the west coast or continue south all the way down to Argentina. Argentine and Chile have the largest commercial Squat lobster industries.  

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