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The Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera elegans)


Subject: Do not be fooled by the lovely clown-like appearance of the Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera elegans). They always remind me a little of a Stephen King’s character, more particular of the clown in the movie “IT”. These beautiful crustaceans predate on sea stars (starfish). While Echinoderms are common prey for many sea creatures, these shrimps do add a little morbid twist to their feeding behaviour: they immobilize the sea star by turning it upside down and then they start eating it alive commencing at the tip of one of the arms and slowly working their way to the victim’s central disk, keeping the victim alive and thus fresh for as long as possible. The “lucky” ones are those that are able to escape, by sacrificing at least one arm on which the shrimp will feed for several days.

Technique: Harlequin Shrimps are often found in small overhangs or crevices making them kind of hard to film or photograph. They do tend to stick around in a particular spot, so once you have found one of these beautiful critters the waiting game starts. Patience will eventually create the opportunity to get the shot you’ve been waiting for. Do not rush it… if it doesn’t work out immediately then swim away to return 10 minutes later or so.

All images Copyright 2020 Olivier Van den Broeck and Greet Meulepas for Beyond scuba. All rights reserved.