A Peek at ShrimpsBy Kathy Kranking
Think there’s not much to know about shrimps? Think again!
Shrimps don’t get the attention that whales, dolphins, and other ocean animals get. But shrimps are just as interesting! For example, do whales run their own businesses? Nope—but some shrimps do! Do dolphins live with roommates? No again, but some shrimps do that, too.
Shrimps are related to lobsters and crabs. Like their crusty cousins, each is covered with a shell for protection. Most shrimps also have claws. Can you see the little claws on the banded coral shrimps hiding in a sponge above? Depending on the species, shrimps may use their claws for fighting, holding food, cleaning themselves, or digging.
And here’s a surprise: Not all kinds of shrimps are shrimpy. Some can be more than a foot long! But most kinds grow to be only a few inches from head to tail. Keep reading to find out more about these amazing creatures. You’ll see that even the littlest shrimps are a big deal!
Shrimps can be brightly colored or decorated with spots, stripes, or splotches. Some, such as this anemone shrimp, are even see-through! And if you look closely, you can see the eggs growing inside her body. Later, she will carry the eggs under her tail until they hatch.
FLIP FOR LUNCH
Harlequin shrimps are tiny but tough. These shrimps are fierce predators, and slow-moving sea stars are their usual prey. Harlequins use their big, flat claws to flip the sea stars over so they can’t crawl away. These shrimps will even attack a prickly crown-of-thorns sea star (above), as this pair is doing.
The white-banded cleaner shrimp has set up its own business: It runs a cleaning service! Those fish “customers” have come to the shrimp so it can pick tiny, pesky creatures and dead skin off them. Two scarlet cleaner shrimps work on an eel. And one of them takes cleaning a step further: It acts as a tiny dentist, gobbling bits of food from between the eel’s teeth! Open wide, eel! (On the coral nearby are hingebeak shrimps, which like to hang out in big groups.)
The shrimp above left is a pistol shrimp. It lives in a burrow that it digs in the sand. But as you can see, the shrimp doesn’t live alone. It has a fishy roommate called a goby. The goby is more than just a roommate, though. It’s also a “seeing-eye fish” for its shrimp roomie, which is nearly blind. The goby watches for predators while the shrimp cleans out their shared burrow. The shrimp always keeps one of its feelers on the goby’s tail. If the goby senses danger, it flicks its tail. The shrimp feels the movement and then they both duck into the safe burrow.
GOING MY WAY?
Even though they don’t have thumbs, some shrimps are hitchhikers! This emperor shrimp is hitching a ride on a colorful sea slug. Traveling by sea slug gets the shrimp from place to place without using a lot of energy. As the sea slug moves along, it stirs up bits of food that the shrimp can gobble up. And the top of this sea slug is a pretty safe place to be: The slug’s bright colors warn predators that it is venomous. That keeps most predators away, but if one does come close, the shrimp can just zip underneath the sea slug and hide.
Check out this female peacock mantis shrimp. She’s carrying her big mass of eggs with her claws. Peacock mantis shrimps get their name from their rainbow colors and tail markings. They aren’t true shrimps, but they are related to them.
The egg-holding photo may look sweet. But don’t be fooled: This mom is no sweetheart! When she’s not busy carrying her eggs, she uses her claws as weapons. She “punches” the shells of prey such as clams and snails to shatter them. And she punches at speeds 50 times faster than you can blink. Pow!