Best Friend in the Ocean: Gobies & Pistol Shrimp

Pistol shrimp is a family of caridean characterized by having asymmetrical claws and is named for the loud snapping sound and startling jet of water which result from the rapid closing of their modified claw. Pistol shrimp is also known for burrowing into sand and gravel with their front claws. Nevertheless, pistol shrimp prefer to burrow in reef edges areas with little cover from predators, and its eyesight is relatively poor compare to other species. Hence, pistol shrimp require the help of certain type of gobies to watch their predators.

Similar as clownfish and anemones, pistol shrimp and certain type of gobies share burrows together in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship to benefit each other. The burrow is built and take care by the pistol shrimp, and the goby provides protection by watching out for danger. As a result, this type of gobies also have a nick name call watchman or shrimp gobies. When both are out of the burrow, the shrimp maintains contact with the goby using its antennae, and the goby alerts the shrimp of danger using a characteristic tail movement to help both retreat into the safety of the shared burrow.

During the day, the goby hovers above the burrow, feeding and interacting with other gobies. Meanwhile, the shrimp uses its antennae to stay in constant contact with the goby’s tail while searching for food and maintaining the burrow opening.

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