Partners for survival: A guide to the shrimp gobies and their partners in life
By Scott W. Michael
Full Article: CORAL Magazine, Volume 18.2, March/April 2021
THE SHRIMP GOBIES
In near-reef habitats there are numerous goby species that form an intimate bond with the poor-sighted snapping shrimps, and these fishes in the family Gobiidae are referred to collectively as shrimp, partner, prawn, or watchman gobies. The majority of these gobies are found associating with a single or a pair of snapping shrimp, in the same way anemonefishes are totally dependent on a host sea anemone. Perhaps surprisingly, there are more than 160 species of gobies classified as obligate shrimp-associates.
This includes members of the following genera: Acentrogobius (1 species), Amblyeleotris (38 species), Cryptocentrus (38 species), Cryptocentoides (3 species), Ctenogobiops (9 species), Gobionellus (1 species), Lotilia (2 species), Mahidolia (2 species), Myersina (10 species), Nes (1 species), Psilogobius (3 species), Stonogobiops (7 species), Tomiyamichthys (15 species) and Vanderhorstia (31 species). Most members in these genera are all full-fledged “shrimp chums,” but there are a couple genera (e.g., Acentrogobius, Gobionellus) where most of the species do not associate with crustaceans.
A handful of species (four are currently recognized) occasionally associate with alpheid shrimps. These facultative snapping shrimp partners include the Striped Sandgoby (Acentrogobius pflaumi), the Notchtongue Goby (Bathygobius curacao), Dash Goby (Ctenogobius saepepallens), and the Spotfin Goby (Oxyurichthys stigmalophius). (The first listed is from the Pacific, while the latter three occur in the tropical Western Atlantic.) The Pink-spotted Shrimp Goby (Cryptocentrus leptocephalus), a member of a genus of obligate-shrimp associates, is listed by Palomar (2001) as an occasional shrimp partner off the Philippines. However, in Indonesian waters, I always found this fish with snapping shrimp. The dartfish (Microdesmidae) Ptereleotris hanae (listed by the older name Vireosa hanae) has been errantly listed in recent literature as an occasional shrimp-associate, which it is, but it is no longer classified as a goby (more on this species later).
The majority of the shrimp gobies occur in the Indo-Pacific, with the numbers reaching their apex in coastal habitats around Indonesia. The further you go east or west of this region, the more the number of species drops, with only four species known from the Seychelles and only a single species, the Hawaiian Shrimp Goby (Psilogobius mainlandi), occurring around the Hawaiian Islands. There is only one obligate shrimp goby in the Western Atlantic, the Orange-spotted Shrimp Goby (Nes longus), while there are two burrowing-mud lobster-associates recently discovered around Islands off the West African coast, Didogobius amicuscaridis and D. wirtz.
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