The role of visual and chemical cues in host detection by the symbiotic shrimp Gnathophylloides mineri

Jane E. Williamson*, Christine Gleeson, Jacqueline E. Bell, Devarajen Vaïtilingon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    The use of visual and chemical cues in host detection is regarded as important but relatively unknown for many symbionts. The small circumtropical caridean shrimp Gnathophylloides mineri forms a close symbiotic association with sea urchins, particularly Tripneustes gratilla, in many parts of the world. G. mineri is known to occur in temperate eastern Australia but the breadth of host use and selection of hosts amongst different species of sea urchins is relatively unknown. The abundance of G. mineri on three co-occurring species of sea urchins, T.gratilla, Heliocidaris tuberculata and Pseudoboletia indiana were measured in eastern Australia. These species of sea urchins were chosen because of either a known prior association with this shrimp elsewhere in the world, or due to their abundance in the area in temperate Australia where the shrimp occurs. Field collections showed that the association between shrimp and sea urchin appears extremely host-specific, with G. mineri only observed on T. gratilla, at an average density of two shrimp per sea urchin. Moreover, the majority of symbionts occurred on the underside (oral region) of T. gratilla. A visual laboratory experiment showed that G. mineri would actively move towards T. gratilla in preference to the other potential host species in the absence of chemical signals. Using a Y-maze, we tested the reaction of G. mineri to the absence of visual signals but the presence of chemical signals originating from their host, and from other species of potential host sea urchins. Seawater alone was used as a negative control. We demonstrated that G. mineri could detect T. gratilla from a distance, the same host that the shrimp are associated with in the field, using visual and chemical cues. Moreover, G. mineri react quickly to visual and chemical host signals by moving towards T. gratilla in preference to other species of sea urchins or in the absence of a signal. The relative importance of visual versus chemical cues is, however, unknown.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-43
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2012


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