The Westernmost Record of a Slender Shrimpgoby in the Mediterranean - Observation of the Week, 1/6/19

Our Observation of the Week is this colorful pair: an Alpheus rapacida snapping shrimp and a Slender Shrimpgoby, seen off of Greece by @rpillon!

“Since I was a child I have loved the sea and, simply, snorkeling,” says Roberto Pillon, an Italian underwater naturalist and photographer. “The bottom of the sea is still a space where nature is the protagonist.” He’s especially interested in fish and echinoderms, and while not a professional researcher, he tells me “Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with the leading experts in the sector...a simple nature enthusiast today can change our knowledge of nature.”

Last year, Roberto “wandered between the archaeological sites of ancient Greece, [where] I discovered a corner that seemed to be the Red Sea, with a very particular bay full of life…

In this bay, under the eyes of hundreds of people who dive every day, the seabed was littered with fishes and sea urchins never seen before in Greece. Observing live the relationship and collaboration between two such different animals [as those photographed above] is enchanting.

When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, the once separate ecosystems of the Mediterranean and Red Seas met , and since then organisms native to one sea have moved to the other. Most move from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a process called Lessepsian migration. The slender shrimpgoby (also known as Mertens’ prawn-goby), is native to the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific region, and was first discovered in the Mediterranean in 2008, off of Turkey - likely due to Lessepsian migration, but it could have also traveled in the ballast of ships. Roberto’s photo here represents the first record of it in Greece’s waters, as well as the furthest west it has ever been recorded in the Mediterranean.

As its common name suggests, this fish partners up with shrimp (in the Snapping Shrimp family), and they form a mutualistic relationship. The shrimp builds and maintains a burrow in which the goby can hide, and the goby keeps watch for predators that might sneak up on the shrimp, which has poor eyesight. Scott Michael wrote an in-depth article about this pairing, and he says “when [the shrimp] leaves the burrow it keeps in contact with the vigilant Goby. It does this by placing one of its antennae on the fish. (This antennal contact is the critical line of communication between the two animals.)” The species of shrimp in the photo, by the way, is also a migrant from the Red Sea.

Roberto (above) says that “for me, iNaturalist is a companion that reminds me of my underwater world in the very long periods in which I have to live outside my habitat.”

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been edited for clarity.

- You can read a published record of this observation in Mediterranean Marine Science (see page 648). [PDF]

- David Attenborough narrates this video about the relationship between goby and shrimp.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, January 06, 2020 21:09


Well done, Roberto.

Posted by willeminalunae almost 2 years ago (Flag)

How very cool that you can actually see the shrimp's antenna touching the fish in the photo!

Posted by milliebasden almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Beautiful and interesting photo!

Posted by artemis224 almost 2 years ago (Flag)


Posted by kkeivit almost 2 years ago (Flag)

What a lovely story and what a phenomenal photo! Thanks Roberto!!!

Posted by susanhewitt almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Terriblement difficile je suppose. Sincères félicitations!

Posted by pierrenoel almost 2 years ago (Flag)

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