The hairy shrimp (phycocaris simulans, AKA algae shrimp) is one of the famous cryptic critters that macro photographers travel to South-east Asian destinations — such as the Lembeh Strait — to see. The good news for Hong Kong divers is that it can also be found much closer to home. Earlier this year, divers aboard Scuba Monster found and identified this ‘special’ shrimp living in our local waters, which, according to John Ng, is a new scientific record for Hong Kong!
After an unplanned a hiatus from diving (and blogging, sorry!) I finally got the chance to get back in the water last weekend and did a dusk and night dive with Scuba Monster, where I got to see the exotic specimen for myself. The dive site was a nondescript spot in Port Shelter, in four metres’ depth, and a few hairy shrimps had been found to be living there, both brown and green ones. I suspect that, given that divers have now spotted a few, this shrimp can probably also be spotted at any number of similar spots in Hong Kong — in shallow coral or ‘muck’ sites — if only a diver knows what to look for.
And therein lies the challenge. The apparent rarity of this crustacean might simply be the result of its minuscule size and exceptional camouflage. Dive guides in the Philippines have pointed these shrimp out to me before and I have stared uncomprehending at what seemed to me to be a brownish speck of silt-laden fluff, or a scraggly bit of algae smaller than my little toenail. To give you a feel for its unremarkableness, there is a hairy shrimp hidden somewhere in this photo. Can you spot it?
Yes, it is the thing in the middle that looks like a squirrel crossed with a bogey. Only a few millimetres in size, it is an creature that will really only be of interest to the macro photographer, because only when it is photographed with a high magnification can its curious features be fully appreciated — or perhaps I should say, can it be identified as a shrimp at all! Also, it requires a lot of patience and aptitude to take a half-decent photograph of something so minute. On this occasion, surrounded by lots of other keen photographers waiting to get a picture, I just got a few snaps before moving on. When I enlarged my pictures on screen later, I realised my subject had been angled away from me, and all I had got was a few photos of hairy shrimp butt.
For the purposes of this post, Jennifer from Scuba Monster has kindly allowed me to reproduce her much clearer shot of a hairy shrimp taken on the same day, below. This is obviously not the same critter I was photographing, due to its reddish colour, but it was seen at the same site. It’s much easier to make head and tail of this one! Thank you Jennifer!
For the rest of the dives, I meandered around photographing animals that can — believe it or not! — be seen with the naked eye. Here’s a selection. Click on the photos to view more details about each one:
Dusk/Night dive photo gallery
For more Hong Kong night dive photos, check out this post.
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