Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

One Great Shot: Shy Harlequin

In the murky depths of the Philippines, a crab peeks out from its stinging hiding spot.

Authored by

by Henley Spiers

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harlequin swimming crab hiding behind anemone tentacles

The ornately patterned harlequin swimming crab is tiny—smaller than a pinky finger—and lives in underwater landscapes of mostly sand and mud. In turbid waters, such as those of the Indo-Pacific, the tube-dwelling anemone has become the crab’s salvation from predation. But unfortunately for the crab, the anemone has a propensity to withdraw its tentacles when detecting sudden changes in light or movement, leaving the crab awkwardly exposed for several minutes. Lucky for me, the tentacles remained in place as I composed my photo. As my wife held a flashgun over the duo, I was able to spotlight the crab as it peeked out from the tentacles, leaving the rest of the sea in shadow.