shrimp goby

A shrimp goby guarding the opening of a shared burrow. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

Most of the time if you see a shrimp goby, you’ll find it keeping watch with its tail in a burrow, just like the one pictured above.  But every once in a while, you might catch something else peeking out of the burrow, and that’s the shrimp goby’s partner, a shrimp.  This shrimp will not venture very far from its goby partner, because the shrimp needs its goby and the goby needs its shrimp.

goby and shrimp

A shrimp goby with its crustacean companion. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

There are many different species of goby fish and shrimp that have this partnership, but in general they have a few things in common.  Usually, the shrimp digs and maintains the burrow.  The fish in turn acts as a look out, as the shrimp has really poor vision. At least one of the shrimp’s antennae will keep physical contact with the fish at all times.  The fish will flick its tail to alert the shrimp of any danger and they will both hastily retreat into their burrow.  With some species, studies have shown that the shrimp stops digging burrows and growing if it doesn’t have a seeing-eye fish and the gobys get eaten up quickly without a shrimp to dig and reinforce the burrow.

If you want more information on this special relationship, check out this site by the University of Hawaii’s goby researcher, Rob Nelson. I especially recommend the section where he discusses the studies done on how the shrimp and the fish find each other.