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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sea Things #35: Squat Anemone 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.

Meet the Thor amboinensis, or Squat Anemone Shrimp. This is a very tiny little shrimp that we had never seen before until our trip to Belize in 2008. You see, Belize had just had record-breaking rains a few weeks earlier and as a result, we had terrible conditions and visibility. Where we should normally have seen large pelagics such as tuna, tarpon, jacks, etc, we instead saw nothing. We were lucky to have an excellent divemaster (Marcel), who found some absolutely incredible macro critters. We ended up having a great trip and seeing some amazing things.

The reason why the Squat Anemone Shrimp is so easy to miss is because it's so small. They are 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch long, and hang out around and inside of Anemones. You can see two in the photo above, deep inside of an Anemone in Bonaire.

Suposedly, these shrimp may also be called the "Sexy Anemone Shrimp," but that sounds made up. I've certainly never heard that, but then again, not that many divers really look for creatures like this one. These shrimps are found in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific, and live inside of the anemones. They will sometimes act as cleaner shrimp, but usually feed off of remains of what the anemone has eaten. They aren't a parasite, as the host anemone isn't affected by the shrimp living there. There are several anemone species where the shrimp can be found, such as the stinging anemone (top) or carpet anemone (center and bottom).

The hand signal for this shrimp is the same as for other shrimps (rub thumb and index finger together). These shrimps can usually be found in shallower water (60 feet and above), so look for them there.

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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