Yeah... so these are definitely my favourite crustaceans in all the world, ever.
It's our old friend, the Skeleton Shrimp! They look like looming spectres of emaciated misery - Death's Little Helpers - but they actually have a whale of a time in the sea.
They're not really shrimp at all, but instead belong to a group of crustaceans known as amphipods. Most amphipods look quite robust and stocky, whether they're a 1 cm (0.4 in) sandhopper leaping around on the beach or a 30 cm (foot) long Supergiant in the deepest, abyssal depths of the ocean.
Skeleton Shrimp are completely different. They're... skeletal! Positively scrawny. There's scarcely an ounce of meat on the bone. Or under the exoskeleton.
Skeleton Shrimp are seldom much more than an inch long, which is good (I guess) since they come armed with a pair of enormous claws for defence and capturing tiny specks of food. Closer to their mouth is another pair of much smaller claws, while at the back end are three pairs of legs for clinging on to seaweed, hydroids and bryozoans.
Now they can pounce on tasty crumbs as they drift by. Skeleton Shrimp are always very active and alert. And forever cleaning themselves. They'e a joy to watch!
Video: EunJae Im
Like other amphipods, females have a brood pouch in which their eggs develop. She develops a serious bump as they grow.
Once they hatch, teeny skeletons clamber all over their mother and wave their sweet, little claws. Now she looks more like a centipede! But instead of legs, she has centipedes!
Video: EunJae Im
Skeleton Shrimp are wonderfully gregarious and spry. I can only hope I have as much fun when I'm a skeleton. We can have a grand old time dancing through the graveyard shift!