Mutualism – Inter-species Cooperation

Posted on April 10, 2008  Comments (3)

Shrimp with Goby Fish

A Mutual Affair by Olivia Judson

I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite animals: the shrimp goby. These pretty little fish lead lives of enviable indolence. As their name suggests, they live with shrimp (often, a pair). The shrimp build and maintain a burrow, which the goby and shrimp live in together. Each shrimp works hard, shoveling sand out of the front entrance like a miniature bulldozer. As soon as it’s delivered the rubble to a suitable distance, it shoots back into the burrow.

The front entrance of the burrow is often reinforced with bits of shell and coral — all of which is done by the shrimp. The goby just sits in the entrance of the burrow, keeping guard and warning the shrimp, which is nearly blind, of danger. At any sign of danger — a diver coming too close, a passing predator — the goby darts into the burrow. If the goby zooms in, the shrimp hastily retreats deep inside. And before the shrimp emerges from the burrow, it touches the goby’s tail with its long antennae. To show it’s safe to come out, the goby gently wiggles its tail. When the shrimp is out of the burrow, it keeps one antenna touching the goby. If the goby suddenly retreats, so does the shrimp.

These animals are dependent on each other. Remove the fish, and the shrimp stops burrowing; the shrimp forage while burrowing, so without a fish, they grow more slowly, too. The shrimp need their guard goby. And the guard goby needs its shrimp: deny the goby shelter in a burrow, and it will promptly be killed by predators (yes, someone did the experiment). The shrimp keep the goby clean, too: they groom it.

photo by Boogies with Fish

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3 Responses to “Mutualism – Inter-species Cooperation”

  1. Ron
    April 11th, 2008 @ 11:47 am

    I’m assuming this is the same as what they term as ‘symbiosis’?

  2. Kristian Liebrand
    April 12th, 2008 @ 7:08 am

    Hey I have never heard about this kind of animal.Great find buddy, shrimp goby looks to be interesting animal being half fish and half shrimp I guess.

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Malaysian Shrew Survives on Beer
    July 29th, 2008 @ 8:19 am

    “But cut the shrew some slack — it doesn’t eat anything else. Let’s see you subsist on nothing but beer, light or not, and stay sober…”

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