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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sea Things #24: Pederson Cleaner Shrimp

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.


For the month of November, Sea Things is going to be devoted to macro. That's right - all things small. One of the things that happens as you move from a newbie diver to a more experienced diver is that you start observing some of the smaller things on the reef. When you first start diving, it always seems like you're looking for the big guys - turtles, sharks, rays -- large things that are really exciting. However, there are many dives where you never see those things. Sometimes vis is bad, sometimes those big things are just not around. What then? Well, there are TONS and TONS of small, interesting things living all over the reef. They're often very common, and once you learn what to look for, they're easy to find. I love my magnifying glass, and I love looking at small things on a dive.

Today we are talking about the very, very tiny Pederson Cleaner Shrimp, or Periclimenes pedersoni. Like the Spotted Cleaner Shrimp that we talked about weeks ago, the Pederson Shrimp will clean other fishes of parasites. Pederson shrimp are usually found in cleaning stations. Cleaning stations are fairly easy to find. As you swim along a reef, look for corkscrew anemone (you can see some in the background of the photo below). Pederson Shrimp are often found with corkscrew anemone, usually one to five of them in each cleaning station.

When you approach a cleaning station, you can hover in one spot and hold your fingertips towards the Pederson Shrimp, being careful not to scare them away. Very often, the shrimp will first kind of tap your finger with their antennae, and then if they feel comfortable, they'll start cleaning your fingertips. Sometimes, they'll even hop on your hand, and I've had a Pederson Shrimp all the way up to my wrist (and on my wetsuit), if it was particularly enthusiastic about cleaning me. So, what does that feel like? Well, nothing, to be perfectly honest. They're so small and light that you can barely feel anything, although you might feel them tugging at your skin just a little tiny bit. Pederson Shrimp usually are only a couple of centimeters long.

These shrimp are also quite transparent. In the photograph above, you can see that this shrimp is carrying eggs (the brown part on her underside). You can clearly see them, even though they're inside of her. How strange would it be if you could see a baby inside of a human woman? It might reduce the need for ultrasounds ;)

Pederson Cleaner Shrimp are quite pretty and very interesting and interactive. They're fairly common on the reef in the Caribbean, so keep your eyes peeled for them.

Do you like the weekly Sea Things? Want to see more? Want to have these lovely images in your home, keeping track of your important dates? If so, check out the 2010 Calendar Sale.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

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