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10 Legged Reef Cleaners

The decapods or Decapoda (literally "ten-footed") are an order of crustaceans which includes many known groups, such as shrimps, crabs, lobsters and prawns. Decapods estimated to contain nearly 15,000 species, nearly half of these species are crabs (appx 8000 species) and shrimps (appx 3000 species). Hermit crabs, porcelain crabs, squat lobsters accounts for appx  2500 species. 10 legs are in the form of five pairs of thoracic (chest region) appendages on the last five thoracic segments. The front three pairs function as mouth parts.

Shrimps as Cleaning Symbionts

Shrimps are known to have symbiotic association (a relationship in which both parties benefit) with many marine animals such as starfishes, sea urchins, fishes, sea turtles etc. For example, in symbiotic relation between fish and shrimp, fish benefit by having parasites removed from them, and the shrimp gain the nutritional value of the parasites.

Cleaner shrimp is a common name for any swimming 10 legged crustacean that cleans other organisms of parasites. In coral reefs, cleaner shrimp congregate at cleaning stations (example Stenopus hispidus).

Cleaner shrimps usually belong to any of three families, Palaemonidae (e.g. Periclimenes brevicarpalis), Hippolytidae (e.g. the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, Lysmata amboinensis) and Stenopodidae (e.g. the Banded Coral Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus).

Periclimenes brevicarpalis

 Periclimenes brevicarpalis

Northern Cleaner Shrimp Lysmata amboinensis

 Lysmata amboinensis

Stenopus hispidus

 Stenopus hispidus

Some common examples of symbiotic shrimps from Indian coral reefs

Starfish and Shrimp: Many species of starfishes particularly Pincushion Stars have their symbiotic shrimps. The tiny shrimps Periclimenes soror stay on the lower side of the starfish. Several individuals can be seen on a single starfish. Shrimps keep the starfish free of parasites and instead get protection from its spiny armour.

Periclimenes sororPericlimenes soror  Closeup

Anemone and Shrimp: Like sea urchins, sea anemones are also host for many species of shrimps. The stinging tentacles of an anemone provide ideal refuge for shrimp which in turn keep sea anemone clean of debris and parasites. Ex. Periclimenes brevicarpalis.

Periclimenes brevicarpalis

Cave Cleaner Shrimp: Like cleaner wrasse, cleaner shrimp also performs the same role. These small shrimps (Palaemon serratus) occur in large numbers inside prominent caves or crevices. Fishes and other animals frequent these places to get serviced from these shrimps.

Palaemon serratus

Sea Urchin and Shrimps: Sea urchins have spiny armour on its body. The long, pointed spines provide a perfect refuge to shrimps (Athanas cf marshallensis) which spend their entire life among these spines. Each species of sea urchin has its specific host shrimp. Shrimps help sea urchins to become free of parasites.

Heterocentrotus mammillatus Slate-pencil Urchin1 copy

  

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