Harlequin Shrimp Facts
- First of all, the awesome Harlequin Shrimp is a creature that not even the scientists can agree about. That’s because only some experts divide it into two species. Meanwhile, the majority consider it only one species.
- This debate occurs due to the fact that specimens from its two distinct ranges have different color patterns. However, other than that small difference, both groups remain physically indistinguishable.
- Further, the animal is rather sensitive. Therefore, any changes in temperature, water chemistry and salinity can be detrimental. Even high nitrate or copper levels can negatively affect it.
- As a result, it now faces an increased risk of extinction, due to the effects of climate change. But, for the moment, the IUCN does not yet have a listing of this remarkable creature.
Harlequin Shrimp Physical Description
Quite noticeably, the gorgeous Harlequin Shrimp most commonly presents a bright color pattern. Furthermore, this usually consists of a background of either cream color or an off-white. Some scattered spots also appear.
Yet, these spots serve as the source of debate among scientists. That’s because, individuals in one region display red spots. Meanwhile, those inhabiting the other region presents purple spots. Thus the confusion.
However, both groups appear the same otherwise. A typical individual attains a length of about 2 in (5 cm). But, displaying a mild degree of sexual dimorphism, males average slightly larger than females.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Malacostraca
- Order: Decapoda
- Family: Hymenoceridae
- Genus: Hymenocera
- Species: H. picta
Harlequin Shrimp Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The awesome Harlequin Shrimp, whether it be one species or two, lives in two widely separated areas. These two regions consist of the tropical portions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
But, the majority of individuals live in the region around Hawaii. Yet, in all regions, it prefers a specific habitat type. This includes coral reefs below the intertidal zone. It also prefers a highly specific water temperature range.
Additionally, it feeds almost solely on only type of prey. That prey consists of various types of starfish. But, on rare occasions, it will consume sea urchins as well. The animal first turns the hapless victim onto its back, and then proceeds to feed on its feet and other soft tissues.
Meanwhile, it has few natural predators itself. This occurs partly because it sometimes absorb toxins from its prey. This therefore makes its own flesh distasteful, and sometimes deadly, to potential predators.