Harlequin shrimp, FSRS Seychelles Oct 2016 Original © KA WiseOceans

Creature Feature – Harlequin shrimp

This week we’re showcasing the Harlequin shrimp, a species of saltwater shrimp found at coral reefs in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. Harlequin shrimp are white to a light pink in color, with splashes of bright coloured spots across their body, usually red, purple, orange, and blue. These markings help them to avoid predation (under the waves, bright patterns are generally a red flag to would-be predators due to potential toxicity). In addition, their colouration also acts as fantastic camouflage when amidst various plants and corals. Individuals mate for life, and are fiercely protective of their family territory. After a pair locates a suitable home within the reef, they may stay within the area for months, or even years! The average lifespan of this species is 7 years.

Harlequin shrimp


Scientific Name: Hymenocera picta

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Subphylum: Crustacea

Family: Palaemonidae

Genus: Hymenocera

Harlequin Shrimp Fact File

? Size: They can grow up to around 5cm in length and weigh around 50g

? Distribution: Found throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They can survive in temperatures ranging from 22.2 – 27.8 degrees Celsius and coral reefs are their natural habitat

? Diet: This species feed exclusively on starfish, including crown-of-thorns starfish. If the unavailability of starfish arises, they will eat sea urchins

? Behaviour: The male and female are often seen together in the wild, and work together to not only reproduce, but also to forage

? IUCN Status: Not Evaluated. Though according to many reports, it is believed that the population of these species is declining due to the degradation of coral reefs, in which they live exclusively