Skeleton Shrimp

I have a new favorite tidepool creature: skeleton shrimp. I know, I know. You're thinking, "Wait, Steve, your favorite new tidepool creature isn't a nudibranch? How can this be?"

Though the skeleton shrimp isn't nearly as photogenic as a sea slug, it is one of the most compelling tidepool creatures I've come across. Its looks aren't terribly memorable, but the skeleton shrimp's movements are utterly mesmerizing.

Several stick-thin specimens of the genus Caprella were sighted this morning in a shallow pool at Haystack. These caprellids looked like the creation of a mad scientist who merged shrimp DNA with praying mantis genes. Bending and straightening their skinny bodies, the skeleton shrimp moved like jointed toys.

As with so many other aspects of the intertidal world, the weird majesty of these miniature monsters was best expressed in the classic Between Pacific Tides. Edward Ricketts and Jack Calvin noted, “If caprellids were a few feet tall instead of around an inch, as in the case of the relatively gigantic Metacaprella kennerlyi, no zoo would be without them, and their quarters would surpass those of the monkeys in popularity.”

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