CLEANING UP IN THE BAHAMAS: PEDERSON SHRIMPS
Pederson’s Shrimps Ancylomenes pedersoni (also known locally as Peterson’s shrimps), are one of several species of cleaner shrimp found in The Bahamas and more generally in the Caribbean seas. The species was named in 1958 by a multifaceted medico-oceanologist-zoologist Fenner A. Chace. He seems to have specialised in shrimps, finding distinct and differing species and naming them (not unreasonably) after himself (chacei);or colleagues and people he knew / admired; and in one case his wife. Mr Pederson was among them.
This tiny transparent creature with its vivid blue / purple markings and straggling pale antennae is unmistakeable, and helpfully cannot be confused with any other locally found shrimp species. Here’s an idea of its size, compared with a human finger and a blue parrotfish.
WHERE DO THESE SHRIMPS LIVE?
Their preferred home is… and it’s certainly a left field choice among sea creatures… in amongst the stinging tentacles of certain sea anemones. Not only do they not get stung, but of course they are well-protected by the defensive pain that their hosts can inflict. They are usually found singly or in pairs, but sometimes a whole colony may inhabit the same anemone.
SO EXPLAIN HOW THEY DON’T GET STUNG
Ok. The shrimps gradually build up a kind of resistance by pressing their bodies and antennae against the tentacles of the host anemone for increasing lengths of time, until they become immune. It’s like one of those kids’ electric buzzer / rheostat machines. Or a TENS machine (for those who know about backache).
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO ALL THIS?
Yes indeed. If a shrimp moves away from its host for a few days, it has to start the process of immunisation all over again. So presumably they tend to stay home-lovin’.
Home sweet home for the Pederson shrimps
SOMETHING ABOUT THE CLEANING, PLEASE
These shrimps offer ‘cleaning services’ to passing fish. When on duty, as it were, they wave their antennae vigorously to attract attention. A fish being cleaned will remain stationary and passive while external parasites and dead skin are removed. Many fish will open their mouths and gill covers for internal cleaning, with the tacit agreement that the cleaner will not become a snack. Shrimps often work in conjunction with small cleaner fish such as some species of goby and wrasse – see the links below for more on this topic, with copious images…
Credits: all photos by Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba
Very kind! RH
Hi, this may interest you, maybe you knew already:
Hi, yes this is of interest and I was aware that fossils have been found of avian species that disappeared centuries ago. That may be common to many places worldwide. I’d have to read the article, but global warming in the modern sense, as caused by mankind, can have played no part with these 2 species, which were extirpated from Abaco 12,000 years ago apparently. Very interesting all the same, and thanks for highlighting this research.
Also, prehistoric crocodile fossils have been found on Abaco preserved at the bottom of Blue Holes – again, casualties of earth events long before man arrived on the island – and unrelated to modern global warming issues.
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Hi, the study says that was not today’s man-made global warming, but warming as the Ice Age transited to the Holocene, with big ocean level rising. Despite all differences, we still can learn from it today.
I see that – maybe today’s effect should be called ‘man-accelerated global warnings which we’d better do something about sharpish’!
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As always, a very interesting and most enjoyable read!!! Photos are exceptional!!
Why thank you for that! I only wish I’d taken the photos myself. The top one has exceptional clarity, esp for an underwater photo. As for the content, well it’s somewhat arsing about, but I don’t take these things too seriously. The facts, in amongst it all, are usually correct though… RH