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Skeleton Shrimp


Skeleton Shrimp / NOAA/OER

Skeleton shrimp (Caprella bathytatos), collected from the mouthparts of the deep sea spider crab, which was collected at Warwick Seamount off Alaska.

Courtesy of Exploring Alaska's Seamounts 2002, NOAA/OER.

Skeleton shrimp (Caprella spp.) are tiny, odd-looking invertebrates with long, thin bodies. They are sometimes called the "praying mantises of the sea" due to their resemblance to the praying mantis.

Like shrimp, skeleton shrimp are crustaceans, but they are in the Order Amphipoda, while shrimp are classified along with crabs in the Order Decapoda.

According to the World Register of Marine Species, there are over 40 species of skeleton shrimp. Skeleton shrimp are small, growing to about 2 inches in length.

These shrimp range in color from brown to green to rose, and some can change their color to camouflage themselves against their background. They have 5 pairs of legs - two at the front end and 3 at the back end. The claws on the skeleton shrimp's front legs are used to grab food. They feed on detritus, algae and zooplankton.

Crabs are one of their predators - this one was taken out of the mouth of a spider crab by NOAA researchers. Other predators include shrimp, sea anemones and fish.


  • Bellan-Santini, D. 2009. Caprella Guilding, 1824. (Online). World Register of Marine Species. Accessed October 26, 2009.
  • Chesapeake Bay Program. 2009. Skeleton Shrimp (Online). Chesapeake Bay Program: Bay Field Guide. Accessed October 26, 2009.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2009. Skeleton Shrimp. (Online). Monterey Bay Aquarium. Accessed October 26, 2009.
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