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Underwater photography: images of shrimp taken while scuba diving
Anemone shrimp | Colman's shrimp | Harlequin shrimp | Imperial shrimp | Mantis shrimp | Saron shrimp
Phylum: Arthropoda Subphylum: Crustacea Class: Malacostraca Order: Decapoda Suborder: Pleocyemata Infraorders: Caridea
There are over 30,000 species of crustaceans in the sea and these are divided into various classes and groups. It is one of the most complex marine families and it's members are often confused especially when it comes to their common name – shrimp or prawn, prawn or shrimp?

And the difference? Prawns have sequentially overlapping body segments – segment one covers segment two, segment two covers segment three and so on. Their first three leg pairs are claws and their body shape, viewed side on, is curved. Shrimp also have overlapping segments but segment two overlaps segments one and three. Only their first two leg pairs are claws and their bodies have a distinctive bend.

For divers, shrimp are seen most. They come in an infinite variety of colours and patterns, which allows them to blend into reef hidey-holes. Whip corals, sea urchins, sea stars and anemones are excellent places to look for them.

Virtually all shrimp live in a commensal relationship with another species. One of the most fascinating is the relationship between Colman's Shrimp and the toxic fire urchin. Mantis shrimp stand out as having a distinct behavioural pattern. These solitary creatures are characterized by large raptorial appendages that are tucked beneath their heads. These are used as weapons that can strike a prey in three miliseconds and with a huge amount of power. Hence the two common varieties of mantis get nick-named thumbcrackers and spear chuckers. Be warned!

image gallery

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Int. = intermediate stage
Juv.= juvenile

The IUCN Red List does not list shrimp as threatened but all shrimp come under threat due to misuse of their environments.

Shrimp encounters

Bali, Indonesia
Seraya Slope
18 metres
Lysmata amboinensis
Humpback cleaner shrimp
The dark sands of Seraya beach lead over rounded pebbles, down to several man-made features including an enormous wire dome, which shelters all sorts of juvenile fish plus some cement mooring blocks for buoys that have tiny morays hiding in the cracks.

One cluster of rocks is coated in an amazing number of shrimp – there are hingebeak and cleaners, squat shrimp and some yellow and red humpback shrimp that came out to clean our fingernails. They were soon diverted by a tomato grouper muscling in to get his teeth cleaned and as we turned away we spotted this beautiful, adult harlequin with what appears to be a baby on her back, although it could be a very young male.

SPECIES NAMES | Many fish can be hard to identify as they are so similar. Common names vary and even scientists disagree on what is what. If you can name anything we can't, please get in touch.

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