Coonstripe Shrimp begin their lives as free-swimming larvae. They molt a number of times allowing them to grow. After the last larval molt, the shrimp settles on the bottom to begin living a shrimps life.
Coonstripe shrimp are among the relatively few animals that start out life as a male and later transform into a female for the rest of their lifetime. Although some Coonstripe Shrimp start out as females and remain that way for life.
Before the females’ eggs are fertilized, you can see them within her carapace, she will go through a special molt when she is ready to breed. She will develop a shell specialized with a brood chamber and in this chamber, there are long, hairlike setae that will hold her eggs in place.
During mating the male and female grasp while the male deposits a packet of sperm on the underside of the female. The females extrude their eggs which are fertilized by the sperm, and then they become attached to setae in the brood chamber. Female coonstripes can carry up to 4,000 developing eggs throughout winter and into spring, at this time the female hatches her eggs. Although a few of these female shrimp may live to 4 years of age and spawn a second time, most do not.
A female coonstripe shrimp may reach a total length of 14 cm but the usual length is not over 10 cm. The irregular striping of brown and red on the abdomen gave rise to its common name. It inhabits sand or gravel bottoms, usually where a rapid tidal current flows.
The coonstripe can be found on the entire Pacific Northwest coast, they are most abundant on the South end of Vancouver Island, on the east side. They are awesome to observe going about their daily business.