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Ovigerous ʻōpaeʻula
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Suborder: Pleocyemata
Infraorder: Caridea
Family: Atyidae
Genus: Halocaridina
Species: H. rubra
Binomial name
Halocaridina rubra
Holthuis, 1963

Halocaridina rubra is a small red shrimp of the family Atyidae, with the common Hawaiian name ʻōpaeʻula (meaning "red shrimp").

It is a small red shrimp, rarely longer than 1.5 cm (0.6 in) in length, typically found in brackish water pools near the sea shore, sometimes in large numbers. Such pools are referred to as anchialine pools (from the Greek anchialos = near the sea).

ʻŌpaeʻula are herbivorous and detritivorous shrimp occupying both hypogeal (subterranean) and epigeal (surface) anchialine waters. They are endemic to the Hawaiian islands, and most commonly found in anchialine pools in fresh lava substrates on Hawaiʻi and Maui Island, but have been found in limestone karst pools and hypogeal habitats in limestone on older islands, such as Oʻahu.

Typical food of ʻōpaeʻula is algal and bacterial mats on the surface of rocks and other substrates in anchialine pools. Chelipeds are adapted for scraping and filtering of algal-bacterial layers. Serrated setae scrape the substrate surface, and filamentous setae collect the loosened food materials. The latter can also act as filters, although filter feeding is only observed in pools with dense phytoplankton blooms.

The grazing activity of this shrimp is essential in maintaining the integrity of the crust, an actively growing matrix of plants, bacteria, diatoms, protozoans, and underlying siliceous and carbonate materials.

Halocaridina is well adapted to the epigeal-hypogeal habitat in the pools. It reproduces in the subterranean portion of the habitat.

Its habitat is unique and sparsely represented on five of the eight high Hawaiian Islands.

Recent popularity of ʻōpaeʻula as a low-maintenance pet in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere has brought this otherwise obscure decapod crustacean into popular consciousness. A long-lived species, ʻōpaeʻula have been known to live for as long as 20 years in captivity. Sexes are difficult to distinguish, but gravid females carry clusters of red/maroon eggs under their pleopods, and early larvae are planktonic filter-feeders.




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