Rimicaris exoculata

Rimicaris exoculata – Introduction and Discovery


Fig. 1 – Close up of Rimicaris exoculata

Rimicaris exoculata (fig. 1) is a species of alvinocarid shrimp found at hydrothermal vent sites along the Mid Atlantic Ridge (MAR). In this section I will detail a little about the discovery of Rimicaris and its life history before moving on to discuss, in detail, some of the more interesting adaptations of Rimicaris, namely its unique feeding strategy, remarkable eyestemperature tolerance and its swarming behaviour . A description of hydrothermal vents is outside the scope of this blog however for a brief overview I thought I’d let the great man explain it in his own, unique way (see below) however for more information please click here, here or here.


Fig. 2 – Map of vent sites along the Mid-Atlantic ridge known to harbour populations of Rimicaris exoculata © Gebruk et al, 2000

Rimicaris was first described in 1986 when a video camera was lowered to a vent site known as Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse (TAG) located in the Mid-Atlantic rift valley, 3,700 metres below the surface (fig. 2). When analysed the researchers were (presumably) shocked to see vast hordes of shrimp numbering in their hundreds of thousands (fig. 3) swarming around areas of hydrothermal activity (Williams & Rona, 1986). Rimicaris has since been found elsewhere on the MAR including at sites as imaginatively named as “Snake pit” and “Lucky strike”  (Komai & Sogonzac, 2008).


Fig. 3 – Vast swarm of R. exoculata around an active black smoker

The discovery of Rimicaris in the late 80’s caused quite a commotion in the burgeoning world of vent biology as nothing like these shrimps had previously been seen. The only other vent systems known at the time were the tubeworm (Riftia) and Bivalve (Calyptogena & Bathymodiolus) dominated communities of the Pacific. The finding of such huge numbers of shrimp stimulated research and Rimicaris has since become one of the most intensely studied vent organisms.

Readers are free to navigate this site as they please, however it is logical to begin by reading the section on the life history of Rimicaris as this will aid the understanding of the pages to come. It would also be advisable to end (if you get that far) by reading the section on swarming behaviour as this links together all the previously discussed material.

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