Baseline Assessment of Anchialine Ponds of Eleuthera & The Red Cave Shrimp Behaviour

Alexio E. Brown, Heather Bracken-Grissom, Robert Ditter, Heather Masonjones, Mary Wicksten, and Jocelyn Curtis-Quick

Anchialine ponds are saline land-locked bodies of water located near coastlines with subterranean connections to the ocean. One special feature of these ponds is the endemic species they support. The island of Eleuthera has over 200 of these inland water sites, yet very few of them have been studied. These ponds are fragile systems and are susceptible to anthropogenic disturbances such as pollution, habitat modification and intentional introduction of non-endemic species. A baseline assessment of these ponds was conducted across Eleuthera in 2015. This study found that of the 16 sites visited the majority, 69%, were disturbed by humans. The most frequent impacts were the introduction of predatory species and accumulation of trash in the ponds. The study also identified critically endangered cave shrimp, Parhippolyte sterreri and Barbouria cubensis, that have never been reported prior to this study. Unfortunately, like anchialine ponds in Eleuthera, there is very little literature on these shrimp. Most research has reported the location of these shrimp, and their morphology and taxonomy. There is a major gap in knowledge about their ecology and behaviour. The experimental set-up to test shrimp naivety included three shrimp that were placed into a 35-gallon tank with rock refuges. Schoolmaster snapper, Lutjanus apodus, were then added to the tank in separate containers and allowed to acclimate for one hour. After the acclimation period, a thirty-minute observation was recorded with a camera, and the location and behaviour of the shrimp (whether in refuge or in the open) were noted every two minutes. Shrimp in the absence of a predator served as a control for this experiment. A better understanding of these cave shrimp will add to the general body of information about anchialine ponds; also inform conservation and restoration strategies of these unique ecosystems.

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