Skip to content Skip to navigation

Pelagic shrimp play dead in deep oxygen minima

pelagic shrimp
Mar 8 2019

Posted In:


Benjamin P. Burford, Kyra L. Schlining, Kim R. Reisenbichler, Bruce H. Robison


Pelagic crustaceans are arguably the most abundant group of metazoans on Earth, yet little is known about their natural behavior. The deep pelagic shrimp Hymenopenaeus doris is a common decapod that thrives in low oxygen layers of the eastern Pacific Ocean. When first observed in situ using a remotely operated vehicle, most specimens of H. doris appeared dead due to inactivity and inverted orientation. Closer inspection revealed that these animals were utilizing small, subtle shifts in appendage position to control their orientation and sink rate. In this mode, they resembled molted shrimp exoskeletons. We hypothesize that these shrimp may avoid capture by visually-cued predators with this characteristic behavior. The low metabolic rates of H. doris (0.55–0.81 mg O2 kg-1 min-1) are similar to other deep-living shrimp, and also align with their high hypoxia tolerance and reduced activity. We observed similar behavior in another deep pelagic decapod, Petalidium suspiriosum, which transiently inhabited Monterey Canyon, California, during a period of anomalously warm ocean conditions.