April 14th, 2013 by James Ayre
The Mantis Shrimp periodically makes its way into the news, thanks to the bright and colorful bodies of the some of the species, and their interesting behavior/abilities. Such as breaking glass aquariums. As a result, I’ve decided to provide some facts about them (the most interesting ones), some photos, and some video. Enjoy.
Mantis shrimp are marine crustaceans that grow up to about a foot long, though sometimes noticeably larger. Many of the species are very brightly colored, in particular, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus stands out. Some of the species are more “dully” colored though, in shades of brown. They are very common animals, especially in shallow tropical habitats, but are relatively poorly understood as a result of their use of burrows and holes for much of their activity.
They were known as “sea locusts” by the ancient Assyrians, and are sometimes called “prawn killers” or sometimes “thumb splitters” in modern times, as a result of their powerful claws. The different species use a variety of different means to capture/kill their prey, ranging from percussive ‘stunning’, to spearing with claws, to dismemberment.
And some of the larger species do in fact possess the ability to break through aquarium glass with a single strike, just like the popular rumor says.
Some other interesting facts:
– The peacock mantis shrimp possesses the fastest recorded “punch” of any living animal, the acceleration is comparable to that of a .22 caliber handgun.
– The surfaces of their appendages are composed of an extremely strong mesh work of extremely dense hydroxyapatite. The composition and structure of the material is currently being investigated for potential uses in body armor. Not surprising that they have super-strong bodies when you consider how hard they hit and how often they fight each other.
– In contrast to most crustaceans, they will actively hunt their prey, rather than simply waiting for an opportunity.
– They are generally solitary, and spend much of their time creating complex underground passageways or moving within complex rock formations.
– Their striking is so fast that it sometimes forms cavitation bubbles in the water, and can create small amounts of light, in a process known as sonoluminescence.
– The shockwave produced by the strike is powerful enough to knock out the prey on its own, even if the strike misses.
– The mantis shrimp possesses extremely powerful eyes, much more perceptive than human eyes. They are considered to be the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Thy are much more adept at recognizing motion and forms than human eyes are. Each of their individual eyes even possesses its own depth perception and trinocular vision. Some species possess as many as 16 different photoreceptors types, compared to the four that most humans have. They seem to be especially well adapted for the awareness of polarized light, and to a lesser degree ultraviolet.
– They “can learn and remember well, and are able to recognise individual neighbours with whom they frequently interact. They can recognise them by visual signs and even by individual smell. Many have developed complex social behaviour to defend their space from rivals,” according to Wikipedia.
– “In the monogamous species, the mantis shrimp remain with the same partner for up to 20 years. They share the same burrow and may be able to coordinate their activities. Both sexes often take care of the eggs (biparental care). In Pullosquilla and some species in Nannosquilla, the female will lay two clutches of eggs: one that the male tends and one that the female tends. In other species, the female will look after the eggs while the male hunts for both of them. Once the eggs hatch, the offspring may spend up to three months as plankton.”
Here’s a video for those still wanting more:
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