Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera picta)

Harlequin Shrimp , if observed, are beautiful and graceful creatures. You may see them swaying back and forth peacefully waving their paddle like claws as if dancing. They form monogamous pairs, usually spending their entire life with the same partner. I know what you’re thinking, ‘naaaw what sweet, lovely little organisms’, in thinking this you would be wrong!

These unique little shrimp are vicious, calculated predators. Not only do they work together to capture their prey, but they also abduct it and drag it back to their lair where they keep it alive long enough to devour it entirely, which can take up to a week!

Although this is grizzly behaviour indeed, you must admire the inventive tactics employed by the Harlequin Shrimp to get what it wants most, starfish.

Harlequin Shrimp eat starfish exclusively, they’ve even been known to take on the infamous crown of Thorns Starfish. So how do they manage such a feat when a starfish can be up to 100 times the weight of these tiny hunters?
Working as a team, one shrimp snips suction-tube feet from each arm of its prey. Meanwhile, it’s mate gradually pulls the Sea Star over onto its back. Once that’s accomplished, the pair drag their hapless victim off to a preferred dining spot, typically under a rocky ledge or coral head.

Harlequin Shrimp although brutal killers are truly amazing, rare and unique animals and like many other marine organisms they are under threat from human impacts. They suffer as a result of coral reef damage and the Aquarium trade. If you want to keep seeing amazing critters like these guys in their natural habitat then help us care for our oceans, and don’t buy pets caught from the wild.