Sample species description from Hawaii's Sea Creatures


Hymenocera picta Dana, 1852

Family Gnathophyllidae

       Looking more like orchids than shrimps, these fantastic animals have white and cream bodies covered with large, wine-red spots (but generally brown with bluish edges outside Hawai`i). The pincers expand into broad, brightly patterned leaflike plates held face out in front of the head; one pair of antennae bear flaglike extensions. The legs are banded. Thin plates extending down the sides give the effect of a gaily caparisoned medieval horse. These animals usually occur in pairs, feeding on sea stars, which they turn over and devour alive over a period of days. (Sometimes, however, a star will escape, leaving behind one of its arms.) They attack most species of sea stars occurring in their habitat, including on occasion the notorious Crown-of-Thorns Star. Single shrimps or mated pairs can be successfully kept in aquariums if provided with live food. A 4-in. star will keep a pair occupied for about a week. Females are larger than males. Wild pairs appear to be territorial, sometimes remaining in the same area for months or years. Flamboyant, slow-moving animals such as these are often toxic or bad tasting. It is possible that Harlequin Shrimp incorporate toxins from their prey. ft. To about 2 in. Indo-Pacific and Eastern Pacific. Photo: Portlock Point, O`ahu. 30 ft.


Home  |   Fishes   |   Invertebrates   |  Books   |   CDs   |   Links   |   Contact
Text and photos copyright by John P. Hoover