More closely related to crabs than lobsters, these colorful palm-sized crustaceans really do look like lobsters. In fact, typical of food marketers that like to switch names for finicky American eaters, squat lobsters have recently become Langostino Lobsters. You can buy Langostinos in better grocers or fish-throwers in Pike Place Market, a yummy bit-sized protein addition to pasta. Langoustine is Spanish for prawn, in the Caribbean, crayfish, and in South America it’s red shrimp. I say, let’s just call them squat! I think that name must be because they tuck their tails underneath, making them, wait for it, squat. While most of these commercial squats are from South America, we, too, have squat lobsters right here in the Salish Sea.
Squat lobsters live in water 30 to 4,000 feet deep and prefer rocky cliffs or cobble without much current – like the Hood Canal. Like other crabs and shrimp, these are part of the cleanup-crew, eating carrion and plankton, and can live in waters with low oxygen, again such as the Hood Canal, probably meaning that in the future for these oxygen-starved places, squat lobsters will enjoy less completion. More than 900 species of squat lobsters live worldwide in oceans, and some species form fairly dense populations making for frozen bags of them in our stores. Here on beaches, I’ve seen empty shells proving that they’re out there, just offshore in silty estuaries with nearby rocks.
Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.