Beware the Mantis Shrimp

Mantis shrimp
Mantis shrimp

I love mantis shrimp. You should, too. Why? Just look at that picture – the things are beautiful! Not only that, but they are uniquely strong… and deadly.

Don’t let their small stature fool you; these shrimp take on prey larger than themselves with ease. Which is understandable, when your punches can deliver 1500 Newtons of force (enough for a human to throw a baseball out of orbit) at 30 meters per second.

Are you an oyster or clam, protected by a think shell? Perhaps a crab armed and armored to the teeth? The mantis shrimp. Doesn’t. Care. It’ll simply crush your puny shell and eat you anyway. Perhaps you are a fish that somehow managed to elude the strike? You’re probably fish and chips, anyway, because mantis shrimp punch so fast that the pressure around their lightning claws plummets, causing the water to boil and generate temperatures similar to those on the surface of the sun (5000 K), as well as a process called supercavitation to occur.

Supercavitation forms a transient bubble of death, which, upon collapsing, generates a shockwave powerful enough to either incapacitate the victim, or finish the job outright. If that weren’t cool enough, mantis shrimp add some flair to their killing – the energy released by the collapse of these cavitation bubbles is high enough to create little bursts of light, called sonoluminescence. Enjoying a fabulous light show beneath the waves? You’re witnessing a murderous rampage. It’s a c-lamity…

Oh by the way, you’re not safe either. An angry mantis shrimp can and will break the glass of the aquarium it’s held in.

Despite their diversity in claw shapes, all mantis shrimp conserve the same mechanism for generating their scintillating strikes. Read more about their spring-loading mechanism, here!

If you’d like a laugh, check out Matt Inman’s (The Oatmeal) homage to mantis shrimp.

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