Meet the Shrimp that rides on the back of nudibranches
The Emperor Shrimp
One of the most amazing creature that lives in the coral reefs is the emperor shrimp. It lives on sea cucumbers as well as colorful nudibranches in really symbiotic mutualistic relationship.
Diving is a relaxing activity, but one must pay attention and open his eyes and be prepared: no matter how closely you look at something, you can always be surprised by what is living down there.
The Emperor shrimp is known for being transported around on the backs of other sea creatures that inhabit the same seas such the chromodoris nudibranchs or all sorts of sea cucumber, from the family of holothurians or Starfishes. Emperor shrimp have a very specific habitat and diet, and their overall characteristics and disposition are similar to most other shrimp.
An adult Emperor Shrimp measures up to two centimetres from head to tail. You often spot a couple on the nudibranches, one male, much smaller -half the size, and one femail. They can be easily identified by their orange sides, white back which is flecked with tiny orange dots, and orange claws that are tipped with purple.
A couple? Yes, but when two shrimps live on a single host, they will often fight over who gets first the food that will be available.
The shrimp lives on the back of it host and move with him, which provides a protection from the many predators in the ocean on the reef. Should any potential predators appear, the shrimp will simply disappear underneath its host, or in other hard to reach places, such as between the branchial plumes of a dorid nudibranch. The emperor shrimp will also benefit as it does not need to hunt for food instead and the food is practically handed to the shrimp!
We talk here about a mutualistic symbiotic relationship (where all parties involved benefit from the relationship) because there is evidence that suggests that the Emperor shrimp will eat parasites, algae and fungus from their hosts.
As an underwater photographer, we shall be lucky because emperor shrimps are usually quite easy to photograph because their hosts are slow moving, and they do not pay any attention to the divers staring at them. The main difficulty shall be to catch and capture the picture at the right time, the optimal composition.
Most of these pictures have been taken in several spots in Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia, mostly at Seraya.
A massive thank you to Komang who has better eyes than me.
Get your dives preparted by Patricia and Ludo at Southern Dreams Diving Club.