Introduction to Social Snapping Shrimp

My name is Sarah (Sally) Bornbusch and my project explores the evolutionary and ecological origins of a unique social behavior in a genus of marine shrimp. The genus Synalpheus is a wide spread group containing over 100 species of marine coral-reef shrimp and some of these species display a complex social structure known as eusociality, a characteristic unique among marine organisms. Eusociality is considered one of the highest form of community organization in the natural world. It is defined as a social system with reproductive division of labor in which there is cooperative brood-care throughout the colony. The colonies are often composed of only one reproducing female, known as the queen, as well as hundreds of individuals such as males, non-reproducing females, and juveniles. These individuals are often divided into castes such as workers or guards.  Most commonly found in insect groups such as bees and ants, eusociality has been identified in very diverse taxa with varying environmental factors. In addition it has been found to have evolved separately at least 3 times within the Synalpheus genus alone. Because of this, Synalpheus has become a model system for the study of complex social organization in organisms. The focus of my project is on the reproductive periodicity of these social colonies; an important characteristic in determining how these social colonies arise in addition to their dispersal and survival potential.

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