Sustainable Onshore Lobster Aquaculture
Sustainable Onshore Lobster Aquaculture

Tropical rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus) uses chemoreception via the antennular lateral flagellum to identify conspecific ecdysis


The tropical rock lobster, (Panulirus ornatus), is a commercially important aquaculture species exhibiting complex social interactions in laboratory culture, including cannibalism of moulting conspecifics. Cannibalism of soft-shelled post-moult stage individuals is a major limitation during the juvenile stage of culture. Not limited to (P. ornatus), cannibalism is widespread across farmed decapods, limiting stocking densities in crab, freshwater crayfish, and prawn species. To understand the mechanisms driving this behaviour and reduce its prevalence, we have investigated the role of chemoreception via the aesthetasc-bearing region of the lateral antennular flagellum, in the recognition of conspecific moulting cues. Differential expression analysis of several tissues in (P. ornatus) shows an upregulation of 70 ionotropic receptor isoforms, including co-receptors (IR25a and IR93a) and divergent receptors (IR4, IR7, and IR21a) in the aesthetasc-bearing region of the antennules. Deafferentation of the aesthetascs via deionised water exposure prevents juveniles from responding to conspecific moulting cues in a two-current choice flume, suggesting chemoreception, possibly olfaction, plays a role in identifying moulting juveniles. This is the first step in understanding the mechanisms via which cannibalism is triggered in juvenile (P. ornatus) culture. Further work in this area will help discover means to limit cannibalism in laboratory and commercial culture.


Research Hub Investigator(s)
Publication Year
Kelly, T.R., Fitzgibbon, Q.P., Giosio, D.R., Trotter, A.J. and Smith, G.G., 2022. Development of a two-current choice flume behavioural bioassay for juvenile (Panulirus ornatus) response to moulting cues. Scientific Reports, 12(1), p.21474.
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The ARC Research Hub for Sustainable Onshore Lobster Aquaculture is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Program. 

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Australian Research CouncilInstitute of Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaOrnatasUniversity of Sunshine CoastPFG GroupUniversity of New Zealand
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