My #1 favorite animal behavior video, so far, is this one of a harlequin shrimp tandem. I shot this at Dayang Beach, Talikud Island, in about 12m of water during a day dive.
When I started recording, I was not yet aware what was going on, though I did find it curious that one of the shrimp had strange pigmentation — this species (Hymenocera picta) usually has a clean, white body with bright blue spots. Then I noticed, too, that the odd-colored one appeared to be struggling. When its old, discolored exoskeleton broke, I quickly realized that the shrimp was molting!
What I found endearing was that the other shrimp stood by its distressed mate the whole time. It didn’t even bother with the proffered starfish (the blue sea star is their preferred diet) until after the molting. I don’t know if I was just imagining it, but it even seemed that the other one was behaving in a caring, protecting manner while its mate was going through a vulnerable phase.
It is said that H. picta pairs stay together for a very long time. (People know about the kinds of birds that mate for life, but not many are aware that this kind of bond occurs among certain marine creatures as well.) They hunt together, and share the responsibility of maintaining their dwelling places.
Harlequin shrimp are permanent residents of the dive site in front of Dayang Beach. Those of us who love this spot feel very protective of these crustaceans. The critters seem hardy, and they seem to be thriving. Still, we are worried about the effects pollution could possibly have on their population. Also, boats that drop anchor in the area might either destroy their homes or kill them accidentally. Poaching is also a fearful possibility.
I hope very fervently that people appreciate how much this beautiful animal is worth — alive and in its natural habitat.
Aside from the uncommon chance of catching molting behavior on video, I’m rather proud of this also because it was one of my first opportunities to have applied proper camera settings for shooting underwater videos; I use a Nikon Coolpix P7000 in a Fantasea FP7000 underwater housing, no external strobes. My dive buddies, Rodney & Christian, showed me how to use manual white balance underwater — and that has made all the difference between this video and earlier ones. Thanks, guys!!