Noisy Snapping Shrimp Could Indicate Health of Reefs

Written by on February 1, 2016 in Marine Life

New research from North Carolina State University (NCSU) reveals that snapping shrimp, named after the loud noises they make, could be used as an indicator of the overall health of their habitat.

Snapping shrimp. Photo credit: Silke Baron CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Snapping shrimp. Photo credit: Silke Baron CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Snapping shrimp grow to be about two inches in length and have two asymmetrical claws. They produce their signature snapping noise by rapidly closing the larger one at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Moving their claws that fast creates a cavitation bubble (or air bubble) that results in a loud sound when filled back in with water.

Researchers believe this sound (and other natural noises) could be used to monitor the health of reef ecosystems, in addition to helping other organisms (like larval fish) find the reef.

Using a year’s worth of sound samples collected from the oyster reef in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, the researchers found that behavior of snapping shrimp varies more than previously thought.

“There are seasonal differences in the level of sound, as well as differences between night and day,” Del Bohnenstiehl, a professor at NC State, explained in a news release. “In the summertime, we got up to 2,000 snaps per minute – in the winter, it was 100 or fewer…We also found that the shrimp were more active at night during the summer, but more active during the daytime throughout the winter months.”

These findings, as usual, raise even more questions, Bohnenstiehl said. “For instance, some research has proposed that the noise of the reef helps migrating fish navigate. But if the sound really drops off in the winter, does this still work? And could the difference in snap numbers between the summers be affected by water quality as well as temperature? This work highlights how little we know, and how important long-term acoustic sampling is in terms of understanding the marine soundscape.”

To learn more:

Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. yemane says:

    yes this is helpful and amazing but it needs further study for the effects of the two major factors of marine environment; temperature, and water quality.