You are facing you predator, the biggest enemy you should fear not only because of its size but also because of its power to crush you into pieces. It is opening its mouth, ready to swallow you alive and whole, what will you do?
Running away seems the best choice in this case. However, that’s not what Pederson’s shrimp do to save its precious life. Faced with far bigger fish than its body, the fish choose to negotiate its life by doing some ‘dirty’ works for the fish.
After the negotiation, instead of being eaten by the fish, Pederson’s shrimp will get a tasty meal. No, it is not about betraying its own species to save its life and get some food as rewards. It is something different than what’s in your minds.
Want to know more about the ‘dirty’ negotiation? Let us tell you how it works.
It is common in the wild to be predators and preys, that’s how nature works to keep the balance. Predators are equipped with weapons and power to catch their preys, while the preys are born with self-defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predator’s attacks.
Different animal has different kind of defense mechanism, such as running away as fast as possible or attacking the predators back. While ome animals have defense mechanisms which are so unique and strange.
In example, Pangolin is born with scales on its skin. The scales function as an armor, and it rolls its body into an impenetrable ball of scales to protect itself from the sharp claws and fangs of predators.
But we know that Pangolin is not the only animal on earth with unique defense mechanism. Pederson’s shrimp also has its own defense mechanism to protect itself from big fish, their natural predators.
When faced with fish bigger than their size ready to eat the shrimp, the shrimp shows a signal of obedience. With this signal, the shrimp tries to tell the fish that it is ready to do some ‘dirty works’ for the fish in exchange for its life.
The Dirty Works
Again, if you keep picturing the dirty works as robbing a bank or killing other members of its own species, you are wrong. It is not that dirty, instead the work includes some kind of ‘cleaning’ service which benefits both the fish and the shrimp.
Whenever a fish approaches Pederson’s shrimp and holds its body still, the shrimp will wave its antennae. This waving movement is a signal to the fish that the shrimp is ready to do some cleaning in the fish’s mouth.
If the fish agrees to the terms and conditions, it will turn into darker color, saying that a deal has been made. The shrimp will then enter the fish’s mouth and clean parasites living in that mouth. This cleaning service benefits both sides, the fish gets cleaner mouth and the shrimp saves its life.
Yet, being saved from grave danger is not the only benefit this shrimp can get. The way the shrimps clean those parasites is by eating it, thus the shrimp will also get some tasty meal by doing this ‘dirty’ job.
Before it has to face a grave danger, yet later it gets some tasty prize by facing the danger. We can say that this problem solving ability is one of the best way to save your own life. Such an inspirational story, isn’t it?
The Favorite Boy
Pederson’s shrimp defense mechanism which include a simple negotiation technique is actually super effective. The cleaning service of the shrimp is pretty much well-known in natural habitats of reef fishes.
It can be seen from how reef fishes, which live near the shrimp’s habitats, prefer an will likely turn into darker colors first anytime they meet the shrimp. Why? Because those fishes need to be cleaned by their ‘favorite boy’.
Yes, reef fishes need regular cleaning since many parasites are living and multiplying in their mouth. When their mouth is overloaded with parasites, the fish is more prone to health problems. Unfortunately, they cannot brush their teeth just like what we do.
“Reef fishes can become overloaded with parasites and suffer health consequences without the services of cleaning organism, and will pursue cleaning even before food and mating opportunities,” said Nanette Chadwick, a marine biologist at Auburn University, to National Geographic.
Cleaning parasites is not the only service that Pederson’s shrimp offers to the fish. Most of the time, the ‘cleaning service’ also include removing dead and damaged tissue on the fish’s body, gills, and fins to promote faster healing.
Small Creature Big Impact
The presence of Pederson’s shrimp itself is very important to reef fishes, they prefer to migrate only to where the ‘office boys’ live. Without Pederson’s shrimp in the area, Chadwick said the only possible option is “large fishes migrate away and smaller, less mobile fishes may die”.
Not only to the reef fishes, Pederson’s shrimp existence is pretty important to human too. Their cleaning activity ensures improved health condition to the fishes. Thus, the death rate of fishes is decreased, giving our fisheries sector healthier and more number of fishes available in the sea.
It doesn’t stop there, since for the anemones where Pederson’s shrimp live the shrimp also gives benefits. Both are in a mutual relationship where the shrimp is protected by the anemone, while the shrimp give additional nutrients from the cleaning activity excreted by the fish to the anemones.
This self-defense mechanism is the result of long phases of evolution. And it is proven effective and useful for both the shrimp and the fish. It shows how every single organism on earth was made for specific purposes which support the work of nature. “In this day in age, this seems especially important to understand the evolutionary basis for cooperation,” said Chadwick.
Turning a grave danger into something beneficial to many sides, proving how wonderful is this animal. Can you contribute this much to the earth? After all, this brave little shrimp is very inspirational, isn’t it?