The great shrimp experiment
Not much is known about the Hawaiian red shrimp, opae `ula, but I’m excited to say I’m taking part in a scientific study to learn more about these fascinating critters.
At work, I met a woman named Annette Tagawa, a state aquatic biologist. She co-authored a book about the shrimp and the anchialine ponds they live in. (Click here to read that blog.)
We discussed our mutual enjoyment of opae `ula, and she and her co-author Mike Yamamoto invited me to volunteer in their continuing study of the crustaceans. I’m so happy to be asked!
I already have two tanks – a ten gallon and a five gallon. My batch originates from Hawaii Island (the original shrimp were purchased from Fuku Bonsai, when David Fukumoto still sold them.)
Mike (the shrimp team leader) asked me to take home a batch he harvested out of a pool in Ewa. I am to separate them into different color strains and observe their reproductive cycles.
"We are curious about the different color variations found among opae `ula in Oahu sinkholes. We do know that Hawaii Island and Maui opae `ula are mostly red, while Oahu opae `ula are often clear or banded, with a few other color forms, such as red, white, yellow, and orange. We think that part of the reason is the habitat: the black lava substrate of the Maui and Hawaii Island anchialine pools vs. the light colored limestone of Oahu sinkholes. Diet could also be a factor," he explains.
"Finally, there is the question about the influence genetics plays on the inheritance of color in these shrimp. We know next to nothing about this. Will white opae `ula produce only white young? Will red and white banded opae `ula produce clear and red young? I'm sure it will turn out to be much more complex than this, but the only way we can find answers is start with these simple questions," he finishes.
The task is to make observations regarding the Kona and Oahu opae `ula, particularly differences in behavior, breeding, and feeding between these two groups.
Annette brought me the shrimp, and they were all clear from the stress. "Like many aquatic animals, when they are stressed, they lose their normal coloration. The process of being caught from their tank or pool, transported in small containers, and maintained in unfamiliar surroundings have no doubt stressed them. In a bare tank, or in a tank with light colored substrate, they can also appear faded," Mike says.
I’ve enlisted Olivia in my hobby. She likes it, and likes doing things with me. (It’s mutual.) We set up a shrimp home and we're excited about being amateur scientists.
While I think this whole study is cool, one of the really fun side benefits is that the team will include her name as a contributor when it files a report on this. Maybe she’ll be doing science experiments for homework at that point, and if so, I should hope she gets an A on it!