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Skeleton Shrimp

Caprella spp.

Skeleton shrimp are usually transparent, but may vary in color from tan to brown to reddish. (The Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources)
Skeleton shrimp are usually transparent, but may vary in color from tan to brown to reddish. (The Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources)

Skeleton shrimp are tiny, gangly amphipods with transparent, stick-like bodies. They live attached to hydroids, sponges and vegetation in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.

Appearance:

Skeleton shrimp have long, gangly, stick-like bodies. Their bodies are usually transparent, but may vary in color from tan to brown to reddish. They have hooked, grasping rear legs and folded front legs, similar to a praying mantis. They grow to be between one-half inch to two inches in length.

Habitat:

Usually found on hydroids, sponges and other animals that live attached to piers, rocks and pilings, skeleton shrimp are also common on bay grasses in shallow waters. They use their hooked rear legs to grasp on to hydroids.

Range:

Found in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.

Feeding:

Skeleton shrimp eat copepods, algae and detritus. They use their front legs to capture their food.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Skeleton shrmip reproduce sexually. Females carry large, transparent egg pouches on their abdomen. Some females may kill males after mating by injecting them with venom from a poisonous claw. After hatching, juveniles immediately attach to hydroids or vegetation. Females are believed to live for one year.

Other Facts:

  • Skeleton shrimp move along hydroid branches similar to the way inchworms crawl.
  • Some species of skeleton shrimp can change color to blend in with their background.

Sources and Additional Information:




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