Although the majority of time is spent building tunnels, ghost shrimp do come to the surface at times, where predation can occur. (Posey, 1985)
- Habitat Regions
- saltwater or marine
- Range depth
- 0.76 (low) m
- 2.49 (low) ft
Body coloration ranges between shades of orange, pink, and red. Some individuals may also exhibit a very pale coloration, almost white. The main body parts of (MacGinitie, 1934)follow a generalized decapod body plan: two differently-shaped claws (with one major cheliped, often several times larger than the opposite claw); five pairs of legs, three paddle-shaped swimming legs (pleopods), a fan-like tail (uropod), telson, flattened eyestalks, and two pairs of antennae. The exoskeleton is fringed with numerous fine hairs.
Females bearing eggs carry them on their abdomen. The egg mass may vary in color between individuals, from light yellow to deep scarlet. The major cheliped is sexually dimorphic, being larger on males. The major cheliped can account for up to a quarter of a ghost shrimp's weight. (Labadie and Palmer, 1996)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- male larger
- sexes shaped differently
- Average mass
- 1-5 g
- Average length
- 10-12 cm
matures between 18 and 24 months. Mature individuals can be found closest to the ocean and they grow much faster compared to individuals located nearer to shore. Larger sized females with larger eggs can be found within intertidal areas.
Females carry their fertile eggs on their abdomen and the eggs are released in June or July. The newly released ghost shrimp larvae (zoea) drift for six to eight weeks in the water column as zooplankton, passing through five zoeal stages before transforming into a megalops. There zoeal stages take place over 6 to 8 weeks. They will return to estuarine habitats as megalopae on flood tides during August. (Bird, 1982; MacGinitie, 1934; McCrow, L.T., 1972)
Using olfactory receptors on their antennules called aesthetascs, a male ghost shrimp detects water soluble substances released by premolt females. Once a female is found, the male will follow and protect her from predators and other suitors with his major cheliped, until she molts. This process is known as temporary mate guarding. After the female molts, the male mates with her and then leaves her to find another premolt female. (Bauer, 2011; Labadie and Palmer, 1996)
- Mating System
- polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Though the mating behavior of the ghost shrimp is largely unknown, it is agreed that the males use the major cheliped to fight other males for reproductive access to females.
The female will carry her brood of eggs for approximately 3 to 5 months. Hatching occurs in June or July. The newly released ghost shrimp larvae (zoea) drift for six to eight weeks in the water column as zooplankton, passing through five zoeal stages before transforming into a megalops. They will return to estuarine habitats as megalopae on flood tides during August. (Horning, et al., 1989; Labadie and Palmer, 1996)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- April to August
- Breeding season
- Begins in April
- Range number of offspring
- 200 to 1,400
- Range gestation period
- 3 to 5 months
- Average time to independence
- Eggs are carried and protected by the female for 3- 5 months before hatching, releasing larvae into the water column as plankton months
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
- 18-24 months months
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
- 18-24 months months
Ghost shrimp reproduce seasonally. The female will carry her brood of eggs for approximately 3 to 5 months until they hatch, usually in June or July. (Horning, et al., 1989)
Ghost shrimp in the wild have an average lifespan of 3-5 years. The primary factor affecting lifespan is the level of available nutrients. Nutrient availability is directly related to the distance of the colony to an estuary. Longer-lived shrimp are found closer the mouth of an estuary. (Bird, 1982; Dumbauld, et al., 1996)
- Average lifespan
- 5 years
- Average lifespan
- Average lifespan
- 3-5 years
- Average lifespan
Water temperature and substrate characteristics can also influence shrimp activities, as colder temperatures reduce shrimp mobility and sandy sediments reduce its ability to burrow.
Ghost shrimp conduct their daily activities within a relatively small circumscribed area. Under experimental conditions, ghost shrimp spent over 25% of the time within 2 cm of the burrow entrance; furthermore, the shrimp were also observed to move from one burrow to another. (Posey, 1985; Wicksten, 2008)
Ghost shrimp territory is limited to a few cm within the vicinity of their own burrow, which they defend from rivals. Population size can be very dense with burrows directly adjacent to those of conspecifics. In Oregon, densities have been estimated at 700-1,400 per square meter in Yaquina bay; 420-770 per square meter in Sand Lake Estuary, and less than 300 per square meter along the coast. (Bird, 1982; McCrow, L.T., 1972)
Communication and Perception
Tactile: This species uses its antennae, chelipeds, and sensory hairs (called cuticular mechanoreceptors, covering most of the body) to sense physical objects in the environment.
Vision: Eyestalks are acute with divergent tips, and bear a pigmented cornea in the middle of the eyestalk. (Nau, 2004)
Ghost shrimp ingest plankton and detritus deposits scraped from the sediments during burrowing. Plankton is also obtained as water and detrital materials pass over the body and are collected on the hairs of their second and third walking legs. (Nau, 2004)
To find enough food, ghost shrimp tunnel almost constantly, reworking the sediment to a depth of as much as 76 cm. (Horning, et al., 1989)
- Animal Foods
- aquatic or marine worms
- Plant Foods
- Other Foods
- Foraging Behavior
Although ghost shrimp typically inhabit deep burrows, they are susceptible to predation because they sometimes venture outside of their burrow entrances. Fishes and invertebrates are significant predators when the tide is high, whereas shorebirds and humans prey on ghost shrimp when the tide is low. Shorebirds that feed on ghost shrimp include the long-billed curlew Numenius americanus and the willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus. Some fish predators include the Pacific staghorn sculpin, Leptocottus armatus. (Light, S., Carlton, T, 2007; Posey, 1985; Posey, M. H, 1986; Stenzel, L., Huber, H., and Page, P, 1976)
The vigorous burrowing activities of ghost shrimp have such dramatic effects on their habitats of soft sediment that these animals are often considered ecosystem engineers. By aerating the surface sediment through burrowing, the ghost shrimp provide an environment attractive to other species including the blind goby, three species of pea crabs, two species of clams, a copepod, a shrimp, polynoid worms, and isopods, all of which live within the burrows. (Horning, et al., 1989; Pernet, B., Deconinck, A., and Haney, L, 2010)
- Ecosystem Impact
- creates habitat
- soil aeration
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
- Positive Impacts
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
No known negative economic importance for humans.
Stephanie Astle (author), San Diego Mesa College, Victoria Hosford (author), San Diego Mesa College, Dennis Ramirez (author), San Diego Mesa College, Paul Detwiler (editor), San Diego Mesa College, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects, Alexa Unruh (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
- Pacific Ocean
body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.
Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals
particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
- internal fertilization
fertilization takes place within the female's body
- intertidal or littoral
the area of shoreline influenced mainly by the tides, between the highest and lowest reaches of the tide. An aquatic habitat.
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)
an animal that mainly eats plankton
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
- saltwater or marine
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
- soil aeration
digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in
uses touch to communicate
uses sight to communicate
- young precocial
young are relatively well-developed when born
animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)
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