The carnivorous harlequin shrimp is one of the best-looking shrimp species that we look for in Lembeh. Their beautiful shapes and colours make them a popular find and a great hit with any photographer! However, its angelic creamy white and blue visage hides a darker nature.
In the photo above, you may notice something red beneath the left claw. This particular shrimp was having a feast when we found it and it turned protectively away, presumably so we wouldn’t steal its delicious meal! These highly carnivorous harlequin shrimp feed solely on starfish and this one was clutching a severed starfish arm and feeding on the soft flesh inside.
Starfish are much larger than the shrimp so to tackle their prey they will often hunt in pairs. Starfish are incredibly strong and will cling to a surface with their sucker-like feet. The harlequin shrimp methodically dismantle this defence; while one uses its over-sized claws to snip the starfish’s tube feet the other will pull back the arm to peel it from whatever it’s stuck to. Eventually, their teamwork9 will allow them to flip the poor starfish onto its back and drag it back to their lair where they will consume it one arm at a time moving inexorably towards the centre.
In this manner, they will keep their prey alive for weeks while they use it as a living larder. They’re not too fussy about which starfish species they prey upon and will even tackle the toxic and dangerous Crown of Thorns starfish!
We’ve had lots of requests to see mandarin fish this week and we’ve succeeded in finding them almost daily! Even Flora, during her Discover Scuba Dive with instructor Dan, was lucky enough to watch the special mandarinfish weaving their way between the coral. Congratulations Flora and all the best for your future Open Water Course!
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