pistol shrimp

Episode 54 – Pistol Shrimp: The Sonic Slayer

“…Today we’re talking about a small fry with a loud personality and the fastest draw this side of the Mississippi… and the other side too. But more on that later…

You don’t really think of the ocean being a noisy place, but it can get pretty rambunctious down there sometimes. One of the chief troublemakers and loudmin extrordinaire is the Pistol Shrimp. He’s great at parties, but he makes for a bad tenant. With a snap that would put the Mad Titan to shame, this high-decibel decapod can stun and even kill its prey. Life may be hard for most, but hunting and surviving are just a snap for the pistol shrimp here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Art and Measure Up intro by xnamaru

The Family Alpheidae

  • The family lives all over the world’s oceans, particularly in coral reefs, in sea grasses, and oyster reefs with plenty of hiding places.
  • Includes 38 genera
  • Most prefer warm and temperate water, but one genus lives in cold water and one lives in freshwater.


  • The pistol shrimp is about the size of your finger.
  • The family comes in a variety of colors and patterns

Measure Up

Length: 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) – 1.6 inches – How many shrimp go into Forrest Gump’s run in the movie Forrest Gump. Hint: A panel of experts analyzed Forrest’s Run for a story written by Lauren Hansan in The Week, and found that, though he risks foot and bone injuries, the fictional run is possible. They also said Tom Hanks runs with perfect form. Answer: 475,200,000


Family size: 1119 species in the snapping shrimp family – How many of the largest family in the world goes into the pistol shrimp family (134)? Hint: The family of father Ziona Chana are from Baktwang, India and live in a 100 room house. Answer: 8 families


Since we learned about mutualism last week, we now come across another animal that shows mutualistic behavior, this time with another animal.

  • The pistol shrimp often shares a burrow with the goby fish.
  • The shrimp builds the burrow and maintains it.
  • The goby has good eyesight and alerts the shrimp to danger.
  • Even when they leave the burrow, they shrimp will keep track of the fish with its antennae.
  • If the fish spots danger, it will communicate with the shimp with a special tail flick.


  • One genus (Synalpheus) displays eusocial behavior like the naked mole rat.
  • Colonies live inside sponges with 300 members.
  • All of them are the offspring of a single large female queen, but they may also be offspring of one male as well.
  • The colony is separated into workers and soldiers.
  • Workers tend to young and soldiers protect the colony.