Marine Life Identification: Types of Shrimp

Not the average shrimp you find on your plate that are farmed, the shrimps you see when you dive are far more interesting. Classified as decapod crustaceans, they can range from sizes as small as 1.2 cms (a fraction of a finger nail) to almost a foot long and comes in stunning colors and patterns. Here’s a look at some interesting types of shrimp you can spot on your next dive…

Cleaner Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Cleaner Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Cleaner Shrimp, White-banded ShrimpCleaner Shrimp also known as the Skunk Cleaner Shrimp or White-banded Shrimp are also fixtures at cleaning stations, found in reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, which is why they are frequently referred to as the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp. These shrimp advertise their services by waving their long antennae at all passing fish, inviting them to stop for a cleaning. Fish on sighting the cleaner shrimp will often open their mouths wide allowing the shrimp to enter their mouths and remove parasites, dead skin and bacteria. Divers have even been known to let cleaner shrimp inside their mouths to get a feel of their services.


Pistol Shrimp

Types of shrimp- Pistol Shrimp

Snapping Shrimp better known as Pistol shrimp are tiny finger sized creatures that are seldom seen but almost always heard! Most popularly known with divers for their ceaseless cacophony that colonies of these shrimps produce; these shrimp emit loud crackling sound almost as if a hundred people are cracking their knuckles at once. Upon closer inspection of the snapping shrimp, it has two claws one of which is an oversized claw that resembles a boxing glove almost as big as its body that it uses to stun its prey by snapping the claw shut quickly. This motion is said to actually shoot out a jet of water at up to 60 miles an hour which generates a low pressure bubble that bursts with a loud snap.

Imperator Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Imperator Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Imperator Shrimp,Emperor shrimpAlso known as the Emperor Shrimp or Imperial Shrimp, this tiny shrimp often lives in a symbiotic relationship with several nudibranch species, it lives on their back and in the gills of the nudibranch – feeding on it’s feces. They also live on sea cucumbers, but then they have a slightly different colour. This shrimp is easy to miss because of it’s size, but if you spot a fellow diver or underwater photographer looking closely at a nudibranch or picking up a sea cucumber to look under it, it’s this shrimp they’re looking for.The imperator shrimp is a great underwater macro photography subject.

Hinge-back Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Hinge-back Shrimp

The Hinge-back Shrimp is a very colorful and attractive shrimp species that belongs to the family Rhynchocinetidae. They feature a complex pattern of spots and bands along the back of its body that are fluorescent in color and they also have prominent bands on their legs.They are more active at night and divers will often encounter them in their torch beam whilst looking in cracks and crevices of the reef. They grow to a maximum length of 6cm.

Anemone Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Anemone Shrimp

The Anemone Shrimp endemic to the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, lives commensally among the tentacles of certain anemones, which offers it some protection from predation.This nearly transparent shrimp is very tiny in size, barely 2 cm (3/4 inch) with its appendages and tail marked with violet spots and edged in white. It’s size and transparency can make it difficult to find unless you know where to look. Mostly spotted on Bubble Tip Anemone and Sun Anemone a diver must look very closely within the host to find them.

Coleman Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Coleman Shrimp

Named after marine naturalist Neville Coleman who first discovered this shrimp, Coleman shrimp are normally found in pairs on the toxic sea urchin,with the female being the larger of the two. They make beautiful photographic subjects and are easy to photograph as they have every confidence that they are secure on their poisonous perch and do not move about as other shrimp often do.

Harlequin Shrimp

Types of Shrimp- Harelquin Shrimp

These beautiful shrimp dwell in coral reefs, where they live on a diet of starfish. Upon finding their prey, they will overturn it to dine on the starfish’s delicate tube feet. These shrimp are white or a peachy-cream with vibrantly colored spots or splotches. Harlequin found in and around the Indian Ocean typically have blue or purple splotches, whereas ones in the Pacific region have red and orange splotches. Only an inch or so long, harlequin shrimp are one of the most beautiful and elusive critters however, what they lack in size they make up for in fiestiness though, which you’ll experience when you try photographing them. These funky shrimp are very popular for aquariums.

*Photo Credits: photos by Lucas Thompson, Philippe Guillaume, divemasterking2000, doug.deep, prilfish, doug.deep, doug.deep, Enje, doug.deep on flickr

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