Found at the Slough:
Did you know...
Ghost shrimp can live without oxygen for nearly 6 days.
Ghost Shrimp are small intertebrates that live in the Elkhorn Slough mudflats. They are native to the West coast of the North America. They feed on organic particulate material and like most animals living in aquatic environments can be wiped out by excessive polllution like oil spills. Commonly used as bait, they can be extracted from their burrows using hand pumps.
Ghost shrimp make extensive, branching burrows in sand, burrowing down to .75 m depth. The burrows generally have more than one entrance, and the animal can often be found near the entrance pumping water into the burrow during low oxygen conditions. They can survive anoxia (without oxygen) for nearly 6 days.
They constantly maintain and remodel their burrows, resulting in major overturn of sediments in areas where they are abundant similar to that accomplished by earthworms in terrestrial areas. They tolerate a wide range of salinities like other estuarine species.
They feed on detritus filtered from the water and sifted from the substrate by the hairs on their second and third legs. Breeding is year-round in California but egg-carrying females are most common in June and July. The larvae may remain planktonic for as long as 8 weeks. Likely because of this, individuals sampled from Washington all the way to California seem to be relatively homogeneous genetically. They may live as long as 16 years.
Predators include fish such as staghorn sculpin. Commensals in the burrow include the polychaete scaleworm Hesperonoe complanata, the snapping shrimps Betaeus harrimani and B. ensenadensis, and the pea crabs Scleroplax granulata, Pinnixia franciscana, and P. schmitti, the burrowing clam Cryptomya californica, and the goby Clevelandia. Commensals on the animal include the copepods Clausidium vancouverense and Hemicyclops thysanotus, as well as the parasitic isopod Ione cornuta on the gills.
If you visit the Elkhorn Slough Reserve's visitor center you can see a great exhibit about ghost shrimp (and other mud dwellers) on display. If you hike the trails you will notice their burrow openings in the shallow waters near the trails.
Find out about the Research going on at the Slough by checking out the Invertebrate Monitoring Program.
TECHNICAL REPORT: Wasson, Kerstin. 2010. Selected large benthic infaunal invertebrates: factors that control distribution and abundance in Pacific Coast estuaries and a case study of Elkhorn Slough, California.