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SEX-CHANGE SCARLET SKUNK SHRIMPS

February 17, 2016

Aquarists at Portsmouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium are confident love is in the water after two of their scarlet-coloured skunk shrimps paired up over the Valentine’s weekend.

The scarlet, or skunk cleaner shrimp, which gets its common names from its brightly-coloured body and the white stripe which runs down its back, is widespread in the Red Sea and tropical Indo-Pacific.

Keepers at the Southsea wildlife attraction have separated the pair and placed them in to a special breeding tank, without even bothering to check what sex they are.

“All skunk cleaner shrimps are born male, however they each have the ability to turn into females so, as long as you have at least two shrimps together, they will be able to breed,” said Blue Reef’s Martyn Chandler.

“This particular pair has already started producing eggs, which they carry on their legs, so we are optimistic it won’t be too long before the first babies start hatching out,” he added.

The shrimps are most well-known for setting up ‘cleaning stations’ for larger fish.

“In the wild they are often found on coral reefs, especially around cave entrances and overhangs, where they set up cleaning stations,” said Martyn.

“These stations are visited by ‘client’ fish, who receive a personal grooming service. Even highly predatory fish such as moray eels and groupers allow the tiny shrimp to clean them, letting them safely swim inside their mouths!” he added.

The cleaner shrimps of one of more than 10 different species of crustaceans at the aquarium which is staging a special CLAW – Incredible Crustaceans event over the February Half Term holidays.

As well as regular talks & activities throughout the day, visitors will also be able to follow the ‘Claws Quiz’ to discover more about some of the marine world’s most incredible creatures.

Issued by Blue Reef Aquarium. For more information contact Hannah Butt or Martyn Chandler on 02392 875222.