This small crustacean, measuring just 1-2 inches (3-5 cm) and native to the Indo-Pacific region, derives one of its common names from its red and white coloration resembling a popular holiday treat – candy canes!
The Candy Cane Shrimp (Alpheus randalli), also known as Randall’s Pistol Shrimp, is a member of the Alpheidae family, which includes other pistol, or snapping, shrimp that are found in tropical seas worldwide.
Snapping shrimp are named for their unique and rather startling way of subduing their prey and deterring predators. They have asymmetrical claws, the drastically larger of the two is capable of producing an intense snapping or popping noise. The shrimp rapidly closes its claw at around 60 mph (96 kmh), creating a high speed jet of water. When the bubble collapses it produces enough energy to stun or even kill prey – usually small invertebrates or fish.
The sound produced by this is often compared to the sound of popping cereal or even a campfire and is also used as a way to communicate. Snapping shrimp are actually considered one of the loudest animals on the planet, the snaps of their claws can be as loud as 218 decibels – louder than a gunshot or a jet engine.
These shrimp are so loud in fact, that during WWII, submarines could hide near large gatherings of snapping shrimp as the snaps would interfere with sonar.
Some species, including the candy cane shrimp, will also live along side goby fish. The shrimp will dig and maintain a burrow that both animals live in. In return, the goby, who has far better vision than the nearly blind shrimp, will keep an eye out for predators and lets the shrimp know when to retreat into the burrow.