Critter of the week - What’s for dinner? Parazoanthus and Nyctiphanes

Award-winning underwater photographer Richie Robinson spotted this little common euphausid shrimp Nyctiphanes half emerging from a polyp of the zoanthid at the Poor Knights Islands. This photo represents an extreme close-up, the image only covers an area of around 2-3 centimetres! So we thought why not feature both critters shown in this incredible photograph!

Introducing critters of the week; Parazoanthus and Nyctiphanes.

Parazoanthus elongates, commonly known as the yellow zoanthid anemone, is a common species throughout New Zealand subtidal reefs down to around 50 m depth. It forms colonies with all polyps radiating out from a common base which is often found growing over other organisms such as sponges or corraline algae. Zoanthids can be absolutely stunning on tropical coral reefs (1) but there are also many in the deep sea, although they are usually less spectacularly coloured. We featured the unusual Epizoanthus paguriphilus as CotW 38 in July 2012 which lives in a symbiotic relationship with a hermit crab (2).

The polyps are not extended in this picture, check out the polyps in their extended beauty on Richie’s website here (3).

The little euphausid Nyctiphanes australis can be very abundant in NZ waters and usually lives in the upper 30 m around coastal areas. Unlike most other euphausids, it apparently broods its young in a pouch until they are large enough to fend for themselves. And as with the other euphausids you may be familiar with, the Antarctic krill, these little guys are also an important food for our whales, here in NZ the pigmy blue whale, but also petrels, penguins and many of our favourite coastal fish…and other life such as these zoanthids if they can get a hold of a little zippy shrimp.

1)      The rainbow colours of shallow-water tropical zoanthids:

2)      CotW 38 Epizoanthus paguriphilus:

3)      Parazoanthus elongatus (yellow zoanthid anemone):

Extreme close-up of common euphausid shrimp Nyctiphanes half emerging from a polyp of the zoanthid at the Poor Knights Islands.  [Richie Robison - All rights reserved]