, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 71–78 | Cite as

Protection of host anemones by snapping shrimps: a case for symbiotic mutualism?

  • Amber M. McCammon
  • W. Randy BrooksEmail author


The sea anemone Bartholomea annulata is an ecologically important member of Caribbean coral reefs which host a variety of symbiotic crustacean associates. Crustacean exosymbionts typically gain protection from predation by dwelling with anemones. Concurrently, some symbionts may provide protection to their host by defending against anemone predators such as the predatory fireworm, Hermodice carunculata, which can severely damage or completely devour prey anemones. Herein we show through both field and laboratory studies that anemones hosting the symbiotic alpheid shrimp Alpheus armatus are significantly less likely to sustain damage by H. carunculata than anemones without this shrimp. Our results suggest that the association between A. armatus and B. annulata, although complex because of the numerous symbionts involved, may be closer to mutualism on the symbiotic continuum.


Alpheus Anemone Bartholomea Fireworm Hermodice Shrimp symbionts 



We are grateful to the staff at the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS), the McLean Marine Science Center and the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) of the University of the Virgin Islands, and Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex of Boca Raton, Florida, for logistic support and use of their facilities. Many thanks to A.W. Parr, S.W. Parr, R.L. Welicky, G. Rivera, W. Sears, T.J. Smith, B. Tuttle, B. Weldon, and volunteers from the 2008 and 2009 Virgin Islands Earthwatch teams for assisting with the development of protocol and collection of data and to anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. We acknowledge the YouTube, LLC website for hosting video of this work at:

Supplementary material

Supplemental Material 1

Video of interaction between Hermodice carunculata fireworm and Alpheus armatus snapping shrimp (MPG 4000 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of the Virgin IslandsSt ThomasUSA
  2. 2.Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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