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Harlequin shrimp

Hymenocera picta

Description: The colorful pattern of the Harlequin or Clown shrimp makes this beautiful crustacean quite popular. Its white or cream colored body is covered with distinctive red and purple spots. It has ten legs; the first pair are modified large, flattened claws (chelipeds). The eyes are located on stalks. The first pair of antennae on the head resemble a flattened leaf that sense the smell of nearby prey.

Size: They are between one to two inches (2.5 – 5 cm) in length; females are slightly larger than males.

Behavior: Harlequin shrimp are mild tempered and shy. They prefer to hide during the day and feed at night. They are usually found in pairs. They move very slowly with ballet-like motion, as claws and antennae wave.

Diet: Diet is mainly made up of echinoderms, particularly starfish (will eat a few species of urchins). After turning the starfish on its back to disable it, the shrimp starts at the end of an arm and eats up to the central disk.

Senses: The eyes are located on stalks, however, chemical receptors allow then to examine their surroundings.

Reproduction: Reproduction is sexual and mating usually starts soon after the female molts. Between 100 to 5,000 eggs are laid per season, with the female tending and cleaning the eggs until they hatch. Monogamous pairs are territorial.

Habitat/range: Found on coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Status: These shrimp are not evaluated by IUCN but may suffer as a result of coral reef damage.