Palaemonidae shrimp (Pontonia manningi) photographed on Curaçao.

Discovering the secret lives of shrimp 

Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)
03-FEB-2024 - A recently published report found that the Dutch Caribbean hosts 46 species of Palaemonidae shrimp, 24 of which were recorded for the first time for one or more of the islands. These shrimp play a critical role in maintaining healthy coral reefs, making the need to deepen our understanding of these tiny inhabitants more important than ever. 

Palaemonidae shrimp are vital inhabitants of tropical coastal waters and coral reefs, known for their relationships with various invertebrates, ranging from corals to sea slugs. Through these relationships, shrimp contribute to the health and diversity of coral reefs by performing essential ecological roles such as cleaning, protection, and even potential nutrient cycling. Understanding the nuances of these interactions not only deepens our appreciation for the complexity of marine life but also underscores the importance of preserving these ecosystems, as disruptions in these relationships can have cascading effects on the overall health of coral reef environments. 

Despite a long history of research, recent field expeditions have brought to light a wealth of new information on these species in the Dutch Caribbean. Combining data from fieldwork, examinations of specimens in the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, and literature, researchers have compiled a comprehensive list of 46 Palaemonidae species for the Dutch Caribbean. 

Palaemonidea shrimp Periclimenes antipathophilus spotted on the coral Antipathes, photographed on Curacao

Key findings 

New species: The study reveals the discovery of one species new to science, underscoring the importance of continued exploration in understanding the full spectrum of biodiversity in the Dutch Caribbean. 

First-time records: Out of the 46 species listed, 24 have been recorded  for the first time for one or more of the Dutch Caribbean islands. This emphasizes the need for ongoing research to uncover the diversity that may have been previously overlooked. 

Host associations: The research highlights 60 new host associations, shedding light on the complex ecological relationships between these shrimp and their invertebrate hosts. The intricate web of host associations between shrimp and coral reef invertebrates plays a crucial role in the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.  

The discovery of one new species of Palaemonidae shrimp to science: Periclimenaeus cloacola

Significance in the face of environmental challenges 

In the context of increasing threats to coral reefs and escalating anthropogenic pressure, documenting the diversity of Palaemonidae and other coral reef species becomes paramount. The study's findings provide essential baseline data that can serve as a crucial reference for monitoring and conservation efforts in the Dutch Caribbean. 

In unveiling the hidden diversity of these shrimp in the Dutch Caribbean, this research contributes significantly to our understanding of the region's marine biodiversity. The findings underscore the urgency of continued exploration, conservation, and monitoring efforts to safeguard these unique ecosystems for future generations.

More information


The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports (science) communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature related (scientific) information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and through the press. This article contains the results of one of those several scientific studies, but this study is not a DCNA study. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.  

Text: DCNA
Photos: Charles Fransen (lead picture: Pontonia manningi photographed on Curaçao)