SHRIMP GOBY References, CORAL Magazine March/April 2021


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


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.


Anker, A., 2000. Taxonomical problems of the goby-associated species of Alpheus (Decapoda, Alpheidae). IOP Diving News11(8), pp.2-7.

Anker, A., 2001. Two new species of snapping shrimps from the Indo-Pacific, with remarks on colour patterns and sibling species in Alpheidae (Crustacea: Caridea). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology49(1), pp.57-72.

Bruce, A.J. 1976. Shrimps and prawns of coral reefs, with special reference to commensalism. In Jones, O.A., and Endean, R. (Eds.): Biology and Geology of Coral Reefs. Vol III: Biol 2. Academic Press, New York, pp. 37-94.

Burns, A.L., Wilson, A.D. and Ward, A.J., 2019. Behavioural interdependence in a shrimp‐goby mutualism. Journal of Zoology308(4), pp.274-279.

Hou, Z., Liew, J. and Jaafar, Z., 2013. Cleaning symbiosis in an obligate goby–shrimp association. Marine biology160(10), pp.2775-2779.

Jaafar, Z. and Dexiang, C., 2014. Goby and shrimp associations: more than meets the eye. Coral reefs33(3), pp.863-863.

Jaafar, Z. and Hou, Z., 2012. Partner choice in gobiid fish Myersina macrostoma living in association with the alpheid shrimp Alpheus rapaxSymbiosis56(3), pp.121-127.

Karplus, I., 1979. The tactile communication between Cryptocentrus steinitzi (Pisces, Gobiidae) and Alpheus purpurilenticularis (Crustacea, Alpheidae). Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie49(2), pp.173-196.

Karpulus, I., Szlep, R. and Tsurnamal, M., 1972. Associative behavior of the fish Cryptocentrus cryptocentrus (Gobiidae) and the pistol shrimp Alpheus djiboutensis (Alpheidae) in artificial burrows. Marine Biology15(2), pp.95-104.

Karplus, I., Szlep, R. and Tsurnamal, M., 1974. The burrows of alpheid shrimp associated with gobiid fish in the northern Red Sea. Marine Biology24(3), pp.259-268.

Karplus, I. and Thompson, A.R., 2011. The partnership between gobiid fishes and burrowing alpheid shrimps. The biology of gobies, pp.559-607.

Karplus, I. and Tuvia, S.B., 1979. Warning signals of Cryptocentrus steinitzi (Pisces, Gobiidae) and predator models. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie51(3), pp.225-232.

Kirhara, S. Henmi, Y. and Itani, G., 2020. Behavioral observation of a facultatively symbiotic goby at a shrimp burrow entrance. La mer58(3), pp.115-123.

Kohda, M., Yamanouchi, H., Hirata, T., Satoh, S. and Ota, K., 2017. A novel aspect of goby–shrimp symbiosis: gobies provide droppings in their burrows as vital food for their partner shrimps. Marine biology164(1), pp.1-6.

Palomar, N.E., Juinio-Meñez, M.A. and Karplus, I., 2004. Feeding habits of the burrowing shrimp Alpheus macellarius. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom84(6), pp.1199-1202.

Palomar, N.E., Juinio-Meñez, M.A. and Karplus, I., 2005. Behavior of the burrowing shrimp Alpheus macellarius in varying gravel substrate conditions. Journal of Ethology23(2), pp.173-180.

Preston, J.L., 1978. Communication systems and social interactions in a goby-shrimp symbiosis. Animal Behaviour26, pp.791-802.

Shibukawa, K., Suzuki, T. and Senou, H., 2012. Review of the shrimp-associated goby genus Lotilia (Actinopterygii: Perciformes: Gobiidae), with description of a new species from the West Pacific. Zootaxa3362(1), pp.54-64.

Thacker, C.E. and Roje, D.M., 2011. Phylogeny of Gobiidae and identification of gobiid lineages. Systematics and Biodiversity9(4), pp.329-347.

Thacker, C.E., Thompson, A.R. and Roje, D.M., 2011. Phylogeny and evolution of Indo-Pacific shrimp-associated gobies (Gobiiformes: Gobiidae). Molecular phylogenetics and evolution59(1), pp.168-176.

Thompson, A.R., 2004. Habitat and mutualism affect the distribution and abundance of a shrimp-associated goby. Marine and Freshwater Research55(1), pp.105-113.

Thompson, A.R., 2005. Dynamics of demographically open mutualists: immigration, intraspecific competition, and predation impact goby populations. Oecologia143(1), pp.61-69.

Thompson, A.R., Thacker, C.E. and Shaw, E.Y., 2005. Phylogeography of marine mutualists: parallel patterns of genetic structure between obligate goby and shrimp partners. Molecular Ecology14(11), pp.3557-3572.

Versluis, M., Schmitz, B., Von der Heydt, A. and Lohse, D., 2000. How snapping shrimp snap: through cavitating bubbles. Science289(5487), pp.2114-2117.

Werding, B., Christensen, B. and Hiller, A., 2016. Three way symbiosis between a goby, a shrimp, and a crab. Marine Biodiversity46(4), pp.897-900.

Yanagisawa, Y., 1978. Studies on the interspecific relationship between gobiid fish and snapping shrimp. I. Gobiid fishes associated with snapping shrimps in Japan. Publications of the Seto Marine Biological Laboratory24(4-6), pp.269-325.

Yanagisawa, Y., 1982. Social behaviour and mating system of the gobiid fish Amblyeleotris japonica. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology28(4), pp.401-422.

Yanagisawa, Y., 1984. Studies on the interspecific relationship between gobiid fish and snapping shrimp II. Life history and pair formation of snapping shrimp Alpheus bellulusPublications of the Seto Marine Biological Laboratory29(1-3), pp.93-116.

Yanagisawa, Y. 1982. Social behavior and mating system of the gobiid fish Amblyeleotris japonica. Japan. Jour. Ichthy. 28:401-422.

Full Issue in which this article appeared: CORAL, Vol 18, Number 2

Free CORAL Newsletter

Join our email list to get the latest on new species, aquatic news and brilliant images chosen by our editors.

Thank you! You have successfully subscribed to the CORAL Magazine e-newsletter.