The Mantis Shrimp

If the animal Kingdom ever had a competition to crown its own superhero, with its supernatural freaky powers, the cute and colorful Mantis shrimp would be the outstanding favorite to claim the title. This humble crustacean packs an amazing array of unusual talents and abilities in its armored body. From a vision so advanced it is unlike anything in the animal kingdom to supersonic strikes, this shrimp packs one hell of a punch

General biology of the Mantis Shrimp

Mantis shrimpThe mantis shrimp is a member of the Stomatopod family of marine crustaceans. Compared to other shrimps, they are reasonably large, with most species averaging around 10 cm in body length, although some species can grow to three or four times that size. In fact, the largest recorded mantis shrimp was a whopping 46 cm long. Globally, there are over 450 different species of mantis shrimps, and they tend to inhabit small cracks and burrows within the sea floor. For such a small marine creature, they are one of the most feared and ferocious predators of shallow coral reefs. Mantis shrimp vary in color from unremarkable browns and greens to some of the most colorful and ornate creatures that inhabit coral reefs.


mantis shrimp clawsWhile packing various amazing senses and abilities, the mantis shrimp comes into its own in terms of weaponry. Unlike other crustaceans bearing small pincers or claws, mantis shrimps have evolved different pincers transformed into articulated raptorial arms that can be rapidly extended to defend themselves or attack prey. Within the weird and wonderful world of mantis shrimps, there are two specialists: some shrimps have evolved their arms into spears, while others have become smashing specialists.
Spearers have transformed the tip of their pincers into spears that they use to impale unsuspecting prey, while smashers have evolved a fist-like appendage at the end of their forelimbs to stun and kill prey. What really stuns is the mind-boggling force that the mantis shrimp uses when deploying its awesome weaponry.
When a mantis shrimp strikes, it accelerates its forelimbs at speeds similar to a bullet leaving a gun – this phenomenal acceleration actually causes super cavitation in the water around the shrimp’s appendage which not only produces light, but also causes the water to boil. In fact, the concussion wave is so powerful that even if the humble shrimp misses its intended target, it will often knock out or even kill its prey. To put this in relative human terms, if we could accelerate our limbs at a mere tenth of the speed the mantis shrimp can, humans would be able to throw a small ball into earth’s orbit.
The other stunning fact is the enormous force the mantis shrimp delivers relative to its size ; the shrimp can deliver a whopping 1500 Newtons of force with its strike – compare this with the average human punch of about 2200 Newtons and you get the idea of how hard the mantis shrimp punches.


mantis shrimp eyesDespite the impressive performance of its raptorial appendages, these are not the most impressive features of the little crustacean. It’s with its vision that the mantis shrimp truly has supernatural powers. Humans have three types of color receptors in their eyes: green, blue and red in all their combinations. When it comes to vision, the top land creature is the elegant butterfly which has five color receptors. But in comparison to the mantis shrimp, the butterfly is almost blind. This is because the shrimp has a vision that would make even Superman jealous with its 16 color receptors. Not only can the shrimp see colors we cannot even imagine, but their eyes function so well that they beat any man-made optics. In fact, some of their abilities might inspire a new generation of optical media that would massively outperform the latest generation of Blu-ray technology.
In addition to having an unbelievable spectrum of vision, the mantis shrimp’s eyes are independently controlled and the shrimp can use each eye to look in separate directions.
All in all, the incredible mantis shrimp is one of the most beautiful and outstanding marine creatures that you could ever have the chance to encounter.

Can mantis shrimps hurt humans?

Yes, mantis shrimps are often referred to in Australia as thumb splitters due to the painful strikes they deliver when they are picked up.
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Can they be kept in aquariums?

Yes they can, although it is very difficult to do so. Firstly, because they are voracious predators, they tend to slaughter everything that lives in the same tank. Secondly, those powerful raptor appendages do live up to their fearsome reputation, being able to break through aquarium glass with one single punch.
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How strong are their raptorial appendages?

Because of the scary forces involved, mantis shrimps have very strong and resilient limbs indeed. Researchers are studying the cell structure of these appendages in order to develop some of the most highly effective body armor ever created.
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