Harlequin Shrimp

Harlequin Shrimp

Acouple of harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera picta), spotted on a coral reef while scuba diving off the coast of Tofo, Mozambique. Harlequin shrimp feed exclusively on starfish, including the crown-of-thorns starfish. They have two walking legs on each side, large claws and “petal-like sensory antennules” on their head to smell out their prey. They are extremely skilled at flipping over a slow starfish on its back, and eating the tube feet and soft tissues until the shrimp reaches the central disk. They, usually one female and one male, use their claws to pierce the tough skin and feeding legs to help them maneuver the starfish. Sometimes the starfish will shed the arm that the shrimp attacked and regrow – the shrimp can then re-eat it – but it is usually too wounded to regrow.

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Scuba diver, underwater photographer and water enthusiast

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