The Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp (Pontonides ankeri) is a tiny shrimp species that is found solely on whip coral species. These fascinating creatures are a type of commensal shrimp, meaning that they live in close association with whip corals but do not cause any harm or benefit to them. Their relationship is simply a matter of convenience. The whip corals belong to the family of black corals (Antipatharia), are a type of deep-sea coral found in oceans around the world. They get their name from their long, whip-like branches that can reach several meters/feet in length.
Unlike most corals that rely on photosynthesis to produce energy, whip corals are carnivorous, capturing tiny organisms such as zooplankton with their stinging tentacles. They typically inhabit depths of 30 to 1000 meters and can form dense forests on rocky surfaces or the walls of underwater canyons.
The Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp has a unique relationship with these corals but it is not the only species of shrimp that is exclusively found on whip corals. Also the Zanzibar Whip Coral Shrimp (Dasycaris zanzibarica) which resembles the Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp lives on these black corals. The Zanzibar Whip Coral shrimp is easily distinguished from his cousin the Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp by a prominent pointed projection on top of its carapace just behind its head. Both species who never share the same host are known to inhabit a single whip coral.
The Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp is a relatively small species. Females (about 1,5cm/0.6inch) being larger than males. They form a pair that live together and feed on plankton and other small organisms that drift by in the ocean currents of the Indo-Pacific region. Underwater videographers and photographers are always on look for them in areas with high concentrations of whip corals.
These commensal shrimps are a common subject for underwater videography and underwater photography, as they make for stunning visuals on the intricate textures of the whip coral. Their colours, matching these of the whip coral make them difficult to spot for underwater videographers and photographers, who often seek them out as a subject.
Some shrimps like the one in this video have a lump on their bodies that is actually a parasitic Bopyrid isopod (Bopyridae). These isopods is a type of parasitic crustacean that infects various other crustaceans, including shrimp and crabs. While these parasites can be harmful to the shrimp, they are also a fascinating example of the intricate relationships that exist in the ocean's ecosystem.
They are also known for their unique life cycle, which involves attaching themselves to a host crustacean and feeding on their blood and tissue. Over time, the isopod grows and reproduces, eventually releasing their offspring to infect new host crustaceans.
Underwater videographers and photographers are often wondering (these parasitic infections are quite common and thus often seen) what the lump on the shrimp they just photographed or film represent and therefor are unaware of the presence of these parasitic isopods.
Movement is important in video, without movement an image will be boring after less than 5 seconds. This little shrimp was moving around the coral so unhurriedly that it took him more than 30 seconds to crawl not even halfway around the tiny coral twig. So besides a little boost in saturation and contrast, the footage was sped up two-fold.
This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺
For another insight of a crustacean living on black wire/whip coral please go to vlog post 2 or click this link https://www.beyondscuba.com/post/xeno-crab
Also you can apture the magic of the underwater world with our online Marine Wildlife Videography course!