Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

Secret lives and secret worlds hidden in Singapore's most popular coral reef.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Anything is possible under the sea: Tozeuma armatum in Pulau Hantu

Gorgonian shrimp Tozeuma armatum photographed at Pulau Hantu, West Patch Reef.
Jan 2, 2004 © Debby Ng

Can you tell? Take a closer look and you'll see a Gorgonian shrimp Tozeuma armatum on a sea whip Junceela sp. It's a crummy picture I know, but that's the best I could do with my dingy camera, and this is far too exciting to not post a blog because I don't have a picture that's up to standard. So here...

Tozeuma armatum are a type of shrimp with an elongated and stretched body shape, from the family Hippolytidae. They're not known to get any larger than about 5 centimeters. To date, there've only been a few reports of their presence in the Indo-Pacific region but their ability to camouflage with their environment probably makes their encounters with divers go unnoticed.

Female Tozeuma armatum outsize the male by 2-3 times. Sometimes they hang out together on a single strand of sea whip, while at other times only one occupies the space, as was the case for this individual. Research in Thailand has found that if left unharmed, Tozeuma armatum populations have a huge potential to grow as long as there remain enough whips on the reef. So if you'd like to see more of this cool creature around, take care when you approach or fin past sea whips along the reef and reef bed.

The benefits of this organism may not be clear for ecological and/or fishery reasons. However, they certainly attract divers because they're extremely unique, both in physique and behavior - researchers understand Tozeuma armatum are always found near interesting sea creatures. In fact, just down from where this critter was, was a Needle shrimp Stegopontonia sp., which I again didn't manage a picture of because it was beyond my camera's capabilities. Hiding from predators upon their sea whips, Tozeuma armatum feed on microscopic plankton.