Goby survival strategy
If you’ve ever dived over a sandy bottom like the one in Ko Haa Lagoon, you may have noticed very small, blenny-like creatures dotted around the place, looking just like they’re discussing important events from the doorway of their houses (holes in the sand to you and I). These creatures are one of my favourite fish – the goby. You may also have noticed that the minute you swim close they’re gone like a flash into the safety of aforementioned hole.
Have you ever stopped to wonder though, how does this tiny creature, possessed with no way of digging, keep his one means of survival continually clear and free of sandy, pebbly debris?
Enter the Heroic Partner Shrimp
If you wait next to a goby hole for just 30 seconds and you manage not to scare the goby away, you’ll see a cool sight. Up and down, in and out – the goby’s best friend and ally, the partner shrimp will be seen industriously and never-endingly using his claws like a mini dump truck to push fine sand out, haul larger chunks and pebbles over the side and generally make sure the burrow stays clear. The partner shrimp’s work is never done – he appears and disappears with clockwork regularity to keep the escape route viable. The goby on the other hand sits at the entrance and keeps watch.
What’s in it for the Shrimp?
You may ask why the shrimp bothers? He’s the one doing all the heavy work while the goby sits and chats with the other gobies. Yet all goby shrimp pairs operate in this way. It turns out that the partner shrimp is blind and if he stays alone he cannot protect himself from predators. So now we start to see how this amazing symbiotic relationship works. Apart, the goby shrimp pairs are too vulnerable – the shrimp can’t see and the goby can’t dig – but together they’re an unbeatable force. The goby keeps watch and the shrimp digs, whilst keeping one antenna in contact with the goby. If the goby senses danger he alerts the shrimp and they go into the burrow together.
The story of the goby shrimp pairs is one of the many stories of symbiotic relationships existing beneath our waves. And as a diver, I feel very privileged to witness this amazing relationship in its wild and natural setting. As it should be.