Naturalist Fact: Ghost Shrimp


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Despite their name, ghost shrimp are actually more closely related to crabs. They are crustaceans that somewhat resemble tiny lobsters, but they have a body similar to that of a shrimp. Found year-round on Little St. Simons Island, these “shrimp” are expert burrowers. They spend their lives underground, digging and maintaining a protective tunnel system that functions as a burrow. To find a ghost shrimp burrow, simply look along the shoreline for tiny holes surrounded by fecal pellets that look a bit like sprinkles. But if you tried to catch one, you would most likely need a form of suction to remove them—they are very fast!

One of the most interesting facts about ghost shrimp is that they often share their burrow with another species. A tiny crab called Pinnixa cristata can usually be found inside a ghost shrimp burrow, using the protection and benefitting from the nutrient-rich environment. The symbiosis between the ghost shrimp and the Pinnixa cristata is referred to as “commensalism”: a relationship in which one species benefits (Pinnixa cristata) from another (ghost shrimp) without causing it any harm.

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