Animal Spotlight: Tiger Snapping Shrimp and Yellow Shrimpgoby

These two species—found in the Cooperating habitat of Surviving Through Adaptation—share a symbiotic relationship in which the shrimp provides a home for the goby, and the goby keeps watch.

  • Animals

There's a good reason why the tiger snapping shrimp and yellow shrimpgoby are found in the Cooperating exhibit of Surviving Through Adaptation: In the Aquarium and in their natural habitats, teamwork is the name of the game for these two species.

The relationship between the tiger snapping shrimp and the yellow shrimpgoby is an example of symbiosis, which is a long-term interaction between two different organisms that live in close proximity to one another. There are three types of symbiosis: parasitism, commensalism and mutualism. In parasitism and commensalism, only one organism benefits by living in or on the other organism, known as the host. In parasitism, the host species is harmed by the interaction; in commensalism, there's no disadvantage to the host species.

In the case of the tiger snapping shrimp and the yellow shrimpgoby, their relationship falls into the mutualism category, which means that both animals benefit from the interaction. Here's how it works: The tiger snapping shrimp has poor eyesight but exceptional excavating skills, and the yellow shrimpgoby—like many other species of goby—likes to live in burrows, which provide protection from predators for this bottom-dwelling fish. The shrimp digs a burrow for it and the goby to dwell in; in exchange, the goby will stand guard at the top of the borrow, protecting the shrimp from potential predators. By keeping its long antennae on the goby's body, the shrimp is able to tell when the goby reacts to an incoming threat.

"The shrimp and goby move around their Aquarium habitat quite a bit," Curator of Blue Wonders Jay Bradley explained. "but they're typically found together. If you see the goby resting on a rock and you look behind it, you'll usually find the shrimp."

In their natural habitats—shallow coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean—you'll almost never see one of these animals without the other, although according to Jay, there are several different species of shrimp and goby that will interchangeably engage in this symbiotic relationship.

A Closer Look

The relationship between the tiger snapping shrimp and the yellow shrimpgoby is fascinating, but these animals are interesting in their own right as well. Let's take a closer look!

Tiger Snapping Shrimp Rests on Rocks in Cooperating Exhibit

Tiger Snapping Shrimp

The tiger snapping shrimp has one enlarged claw, which it can open and close rapidly to make a snapping sound, giving them their common name. The shrimp can snap its claw so quickly, it creates air bubbles in the water that collapse with such speed and force, they create high-heat shockwaves that stun prey. This phenomenon is known as cavitation, and it's the same process that occurs when the peacock mantis shrimp—a fellow resident of Surviving Through Adaptation—moves its club-like appendages with lightning fast speed to strike prey.

Yellow Shrimpgoby Peers Over Rocks in Cooperating Exhibit

Yellow Shrimpgoby

The yellow shrimpgoby—also known as the watchman goby, for obvious reasons—shares similar physical features to other gobies. It's a small fish, with a long, slender body and modified pelvic fins that are fused together. They use these modified fins to prop themselves up on structures like rocks or corals, or to scoot along the ocean floor. Jay describes the yellow shrimpgoby as a personable fish that tends to be more interactive than other species.

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