acta ethologica

, 12:105 | Cite as

Why be cryptic? Choice of host urchin is not based on camouflage in the caridean shrimp Gnathophylloides mineri

  • Silvia Maciá
  • Michael P. Robinson
Original Paper


The caridean shrimp Gnathophylloides mineri lives among the spines of various species of sea urchins. The shrimp has cryptic coloration that closely matches the coloration of the Caribbean urchin Tripneustes ventricosus. Despite this camouflage, in Jamaica, G. mineri is three times more abundant on the urchin Lytechinus variegatus than on T. ventricosus. L. variegatus exhibits more pronounced covering behavior than T. ventricosus. In laboratory choice experiments, the shrimp exhibited no preference between live, uncovered T. ventricosus or L. variegatus. Similarly, there was no preference between models (the tests, with spines attached, of hollowed out urchins) of T. ventricosus or L. variegatus without cover, or between models of T. ventricosus or L. variegatus with switched cover (i.e., each model was covered with the debris that had belonged to its partner when collected). There was, however, a significant preference for L. variegatus models with their natural covering over T. ventricosus with their natural covering. The shrimp may prefer L. variegatus with its extensive covering over T. ventricosus with extensive covering because the spines of the former are typically erect, as opposed to the spines of T. ventricosus, which usually lay flat across the test and would not give the shrimp much room to maneuver under the debris layer. Our study indicates that despite effective morphological and behavioral traits that render an organism highly cryptic, other, more effective, means of concealment may undermine the usefulness of this crypsis.


Crypsis Symbiosis Habitat choice Sea urchin 



Thanks to Julien Million for field help, Lori Lambert and Meisha Green for help with the preference experiments, M. Thiel and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript, and J. F. Morrissey and HUML for logistical support. This is contribution # 13 of the Hofstra University Marine Lab. The research described herein complied with the current laws of Jamaica.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyBarry UniversityMiami ShoresUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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