BIOTIC Species Information for Palinurus elephas
Researched byAngus Jackson & Charlotte Marshall Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
General Biology
Growth formArticulate
Feeding methodOmnivore
Environmental positionEpifaunal
Typical food typesEchinoderms, small gastropods and bivalves, microalgae, shrimp larvae, bryozoans, annelids. HabitFree living
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityNone (< 10 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeMedium-large(21-50cm)
HeightInsufficient information Growth Rate12 mm/year
Adult dispersal potential>10km DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationThe male and female size range units used are total length (TL) although carapace length (CL) is the measurement usually used for fisheries management. Maximum overall total length is about 600 mm, although more commonly between 400 - 500 mm. In terms of carapace length, male and female sizes have been recorded to range between 85-193 mm and 79-180 mm respectively.

The mean annual size increase in females was found to be marginally lower at 12 mm CL / year than for males (12.2 mm CL / year) (Mercer, 1973, cited in Hunter, 1999). Other growth rate estimates suggest an increase of 2-14% CL with each moult (Campillo & Amadei, 1978) or as low as 1-2 mm CL / year (Hepper, 1977). Growth increments decrease as individuals approach their maximum size. Growth rates are also likely to vary with temperature, with higher rates apparent in warmer waters (Hunter, 1999).

In Britain and Ireland, females moult in late summer between July and September (Hepper, 1977; Ansell & Robb, 1977; Hunter et al., 1996). The moult cycle of males in Britain and Ireland seems to be less clear. Hunter et al. (1996) reported that males have a moult peak in September coinciding with the female moult. According to Hepper (1977) and Hunter (1999), male Palinurus elephas in Britain and Ireland moult mainly in the winter months although Hunter (1999) also states that males moult throughout the year. In Ireland, moulting occurs from late spring to early summer (Gibson & O'Riordan, 1965; Mercer, 1973, both cited in Hunter, 1999).
Moult frequency decreases with increasing age (Hunter, 1999).

Size at maturity
In a marine reserve in the Mediterranean, Goñi et al. (2003) found that female Palinurus elephas were able to reproduce at 76-77 mm CL and males were sexually mature at 82.5 mm CL. This size-specific fecundity was considered to be comparable to a lightly fished population off Ireland. In Britain and Ireland, size at maturity is generally larger (see Hunter, 1999). In Cornwall, Hunter et al. (1996) reported the smallest berried female to measure 90 mm CL whereas in Wales, the smallest berried female measured 121 mm CL. The mean size of female, male and berried female Palinurus elephas in Cornwall was reported as 125.6,132.4 and 135mm respectively, and 155.8, 138.7 and 138.6 mm respectively in Wales (Hunter et al., 1996). Mercer (1973, cited in Hunter, 1999) found that 50% female maturity was reached between 82-86 mm CL in Irish Palinurus elephas, the smallest measuring ca 70 mm CL. Female Palinurus elephas are thought to be almost always mature by the time they recruit into the fishery (Hunter et al., 1996).

Mobility & sociability
Palinurus elephas typically crawls on the substratum but may occasionally be found to swim. Mercer (1973, cited in Hunter, 1999) describes the species as 'typically gregarious'.

Palinurus elephas is known to undertake migrations to deeper water in the Atlantic (Ansell & Robb, 1977). Females move to deeper waters during egg development and return inshore prior to egg hatching (GoñI et al., 2001). Males are also thought to make onshore-offshore migrations although the timing in relation to female migrations is contentious (GoñI et al., 2001).

Biology References Hepper, 1977, Hunter et al., 1996, Campillo & Amadei, 1978, Ansell & Robb, 1977, Ingle, 1997, Hunter, 1999, Mercer, 1973, Noel, 1999, Goñi et al., 2003, Gibson & O'Riordan, 1965, Goñi & Lacrouite, 2005,
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