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149. A shrimp’s call to action


In this underwater videoclip, we observe an intriguing interaction between the White-banded Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) and a Yellowmouth Moray (Gymnothorax nudivomer). What makes this interaction particularly remarkable is how the shrimp manages to convince the moray eel that it is not a potential meal, but rather a helpful ally.

Both the shrimp and the moray eel have limited eyesight, relying predominantly on other senses such as touch and smell to gather vital information about their surroundings. In order to signal its intentions to the moray eel, the shrimp employs a clever tactic. It begins by delicately tickling the lower jaw of the eel, effectively announcing its presence.

Upon feeling the touch of the shrimp, the moray eel responds by opening its mouth in a gentle manner, inviting the shrimp to perform its cleaning duties. This behaviour is significant because the moray eel recognises that the shrimp poses no threat and can be trusted to remove food scraps from its buccal cavity. In essence, the eel perceives the shrimp as a helpful friend rather than potential prey.

This interaction exemplifies a mutualistic relationship, benefiting both species involved. The shrimp gains a nutritious meal by consuming the small food shreds it removes from in between the moray’s teeth, while the moray eel enjoys the benefits of some dental hygiene. It is a remarkable example of cooperation and symbiosis in the underwater world.

Although these creatures may lack advanced visual capabilities, their reliance on touch and smell has enabled them to establish a harmonious relationship. This behaviour not only showcases the remarkable adaptability of marine life but also highlights the diverse strategies organisms employ to thrive in their environments.


Instead of concentrating on the eel in this shot the camera focuses on the shrimp. Rather than filming the eel’s face and waiting for the shrimp to enter the image, I chose to film the shrimp and wait for the moray to enter the scene.

The underwater filming technique described involves a strategic decision regarding the focus and composition of this underwater shot. Instead of directing the camera's attention towards the eel, I choose to focus on the shrimp in this particular shot.

Typically, when capturing a scene involving multiple marine creatures, underwater filmmakers and videographers might choose to frame the shot around the primary subject, such as the Yellowmouth Moray in this case. They would then wait for secondary subjects, like the shrimp, to enter the frame naturally. However, in this instance, I opted to film the shrimp as the primary subject and patiently waits for the moray eel to enter the scene.

By choosing to focus on the shrimp rather than on the more impressive moray eel, I wanted to showcase the shrimp’s distinctive and intriguing behaviour. Alternatively, the shrimp's presence in this shot could serve as a focal point, emphasising the significance of its actions or relationship with the moray eel.

This approach required patience and careful observation, as I had to wait for the moray eel to enter the frame while keeping the shrimp in focus. It also adds an element of unpredictability to the shot, as the timing and movements of the eel become crucial factors in capturing the desired composition.

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