Alpheidae: Snapping Shrimp
Kristin Hultgren is broadly interested in examining how closely related species diversify and coexist in similar habitats. Caribbean snapping shrimps (family Alpheidae) are a model marine group with which to examine these questions because of their enormous species richness (>600 species, among the largest of all decapod crustacean families). For the Encyclopedia of Life, she will be focusing in particular on the two largest genera –Alpheus (>300 species) and Synalpheus (>170 species). Alpheusand Synalpheus are the most well-studied alpheid genera, and together span an exceptional range of morphological, behavioral, and ecological diversity. Species in both groups possess a characteristic, enlarged snapping claw used for inter- and intraspecific interactions and communication. Although the majority of species live in heterosexual pairs, the genus Synalpheus contains the only known example of eusociality in a marine invertebrate: at least six species have been described as eusocial, and live in large colonies with strong reproductive skew. Finally, Alpheus and Synalpheus are among the most abundant crustaceans in cryptic tropical and subtropical habitats, and many live in close physical association (i.e., symbiosis) with taxa in nearly every major phylum.