“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky, the Caprellidae family.”
Skeleton shrimp are sometimes referred to as the "praying mantis of the sea." Maybe you've already encountered these small creepy creatures, while perusing tide pools. They're hard to ignore.
Hundreds, thousands, on the right day even millions, all waiting — clinging wantonly to hydrozoans and bryozoans. These hosts, of course, hide the skeleton shrimp’s identity.
As the shrimp cling to their camouflage, they sway in sync with the pulse of the tide. And when the terrifying time is right, they strike their prey with sharp, lighting-quick claws!
Just be grateful that due to a happy coincidence of scale, you've been excluded from their menu.
Skeleton shrimp are found in all oceans, and although most inhabit the low-to-mid intertidal range, there are a few species that live at great depths. They're omnivorous, and thus feed on a variety of the ocean’s delicacies such as diatoms, protozoans and copepods. Throughout the family, males are larger than females.
As with other amphipods, skeleton shrimp shed their exoskeletons in order to grow.
Mating can only occur directly after the female molts, at which point her shell is still soft. As a finale, and certainly what earned the skeleton shrimp their comparison to the praying mantis, some females will indeed kill and eat their mate after copulation. The female accomplishes this by injecting venom from her claw into what at that point, may only be considered her ex.