On a Mauritian reef, a Chocolate Shrimp-goby (Cryptocentrus malindiensis) shares its burrow with a Red Spot Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus rubromaculatus).
The Chocolate Shrimp-goby inhabits the waters of the Western Indian Ocean, from South Africa in the south to Kenya and the Seychelles in the north, as well as the Mascareignes Islands (Réunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues) in the east. It is a rarely seen partner-goby or shrimp-goby, and there is very little information, underwater photos, and video footage available showcasing this beautiful little fish and its behaviour.
The Red Spot Snapping Shrimp has very poor eyesight and relies on the Chocolate Shrimp-goby to keep it safe. To compensate for its limited vision, the shrimp maintains constant contact with the goby by using one of its antennae. By staying connected, the shrimp can rely on the goby's vigilant surveillance to detect potential threats and alert it when danger approaches.
In this partnership, the goby serves as the eyes and lookout for both itself and the shrimp. It keeps watch over the surroundings, scanning for predators or other potential dangers that the shrimp may not be able to detect due to its poor eyesight. By having a dedicated "partner" like the goby, the shrimp gains an extra layer of protection and significantly reduces its vulnerability to predators.
In return for the goby's vigilant surveillance, the shrimp contributes to the partnership by keeping their shared burrow in good condition. Burrows provide shelter and safety for both the shrimp and the goby. The shrimp ensures that the burrow remains clean and well-maintained, creating a suitable environment for both species to live and thrive. When observing the shrimp in this underwater video clip, it is easy to understand why these shrimps are also referred to as "bulldozer shrimp."
This symbiotic relationship between the Chocolate Shrimp-goby and the Red Spot Snapping Shrimp exemplifies mutual dependence and cooperation. The shrimp benefits from the goby's enhanced visual abilities, while the goby benefits from the shrimp's burrow maintenance. Together, they form a partnership that maximises their chances of survival and success in their shared habitat.
This symbiotic relationship, where both individuals benefit from the alliance, is called "mutualism." If only one species benefits and the other neither benefits nor is harmed, it is called "commensalism." And if only one species benefits at the expense of the other, then it is called "parasitism."
Patience is key here. As soon as the goby spots a scuba diver (with or without a camera), the duo darts into the burrow and stays there for quite some time. Take the time to position yourself with your video camera ready to film and your underwater video lights on, and wait patiently without making any movement that might prevent the pair from resuming their usual activities. Let the little couple of cohabitants accustom themselves to the presence of you, the underwater videographer, and your equipment. It may take a few minutes, but your patience will be rewarded with beautiful behaviour footage of a partner-goby or shrimp-goby and its shrimp.
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