Harlequin shrimp Hymenocera picta

  Crabs, shrimps and shellfish

Harlequin shrimp

Harlequin shrimp Hymenocera picta

Identity card

Harlequin shrimp

Scientific name:
Hymenocera picta
Year of description:
Dana, 1852
IUCN Status:
Not Evaluated

Indo-Pacific and Red Sea


Down to a depth of 20 m


3 to 6 cm


Seas stars of the genres Fromia, Nardoa, Linckia and Acanthaster.

Harlequin shrimp Hymenocera picta

They generally live in pairs, in the middle of the coral which acts as a shelter.


And in exchange for this protection, this small decapod feeds on sea stars that could become parasites for the coral. The pair of shrimps attack the sea star they want to feast on by turning it over. The tasting session starts with the sea star's arm!

did you know?

The harlequin shrimp Hymenocera picta gets its name from its colourful coat.

During the breeding season, shrimp engage in courtship by agitating their sexual organs. Then the male and female entangle for fertilisation. Females lay between 100 and 5,000 eggs and each laying corresponds to a moult.

Where is the animal to be found?

This shrimp is a small crustacean that does not exceed 5 cm in length and is found in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

How can it be recognised?

The carapace is whitish with red or blue spots. According to some authors, red-spotted shrimp live in coral reefs, whereas blue-spotted shrimp are found in sedimentary seabeds. The harlequin shrimp is recognised by its flattened and developed front appendages. The body is made of two parts: the cephalothorax with its 8 segments and the abdomen with the mouth appendages and the 5 pairs of legs.

What is distinctive about it?

Females are normally larger than males. The shrimp is a territorial animal, and the males are particularly aggressive, fighting to establish their dominance. Harlequin shrimp larvae feed on plankton.

Harlequin shrimp Hymenocera picta

Where can I find it at Nausicaá?

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