Lobsters are ten-legged crustaceans, and close cousins to shrimp and crabs. They are bottom-dwelling (or benthic) animals that live in every ocean on the planet, as well as in salty inland environments, like marshes and freshwater habitats. In fact, there are so many varieties of lobsters that the animals often are found in a wide array of patterns, colors, sizes, and anatomical constructions.
The American lobster's range starts at the northernmost tip of Canada's East Coast all the way south, about 1300 miles, to the waters of North Carolina. However, the lobster is most abundant in the waters off the coast of Maine.
This animal is well known for its two strong (and succulent) claws: one large, craggy claw used to crush shells, and a smaller, serrated claw used to rip, tear, and retrieve the meat within its prey.
The European lobster, closest relative and almost identical to the American lobster, lives in the waters of the northeastern Atlantic. European lobsters can be found from Norway to Morocco, in the North Sea, in the western and central parts of the Mediterranean, and in western areas of the Black Sea. Unlike the American lobster, which commonly is known for showing off red and russet hues, the European lobster often is noted as seeming rather blue in color, sometimes brilliantly so.
Scampi are a small, somewhat sensitive, species of lobster with claws as long as their bodies. At least 17 scampi species are scattered across the globe, making homes in waters that wash along almost every continent, including the eastern coastline bridging North and South America, the surrounding waters of all Europe, much of the western African coast, all of southeast Asia, and the western edges of Australia.
Crayfish look almost alarmingly like mini-American lobsters. On average, they measure approximately 7 to 8 centimeters in length. Unlike most lobsters, crayfish live entirely in freshwater ecosystems, like creeks, rivers and lakes. What's more, members of at least one of its 500 known species can be found in almost every country in the world.
Rock lobsters often are identified by their lack of claws; these crustaceans rely on large antennae, which exceed the length of their bodies. Rock lobsters are largely exploited by fishermen, but still can be found throughout the worlds' oceans, off European coasts, in the Mediterranean, around Africa, Australia, South America, and especially between Japan and the South Pacific.
Slipper lobsters, like Rock lobsters, do not have claws. Slippers, instead, carry large, disc-like appendages that look somewhat like flat mushroom caps. This sort of appearance makes them easily recognizable in warm waters around the world. There, they often are harvested in shallows with muddy bottoms. Though they are not as sought after as other lobsters, the Slippers still are considered dangerously exploited by fishermen.
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Ruth Nix began her career teaching a variety of writing classes at the University of Florida. She also worked as a columnist and editorial fellow for "Esquire" magazine. In 2012, Nix was featured in the annual "Best New Poets" anthology and received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award for excellence in teaching from the University of Florida.