Here is an abstract of the Patek Lab's most recent publication, entitled "Disentangling defense: the function of spiny lobster sounds.":
The function of anti-predator signalling is a complex, and often-overlooked, area of animal
communication. The goal of this study was to examine the behavioural function of an antipredator
acoustic signal in the ocean. We observed the acoustic and defensive behaviours
of California spiny lobsters (Palinuridae: Panulirus interruptus) to a model predator, model
conspecific and blank pole, both in the tank and in the field.We found that P. interruptus make
a ‘rasp’ sound once physically contacted by an aggressor, rather than during the approach.
The model predator and conspecific elicited no discernable changes in defensive behaviour,
but the responses by the lobsters to aggressors in the tank versus field were distinct. Our
results indicate that the spiny lobster’s rasp is used as a startle or aposematic signal, which
may be coupled with visual aposematism of their spines. Alternatively, the rasp may function
as a vibratory escape mechanism or as an acoustic analogue to eye-spots. This study offers
insights into the role of acoustic signalling in the marine environment and demonstrates a
central role for sound production in spiny lobster ecology.