Updated: May 17
Summer Reading is happening now at the Bath County Memorial Library! In honor of our theme, Oceans of Possibilities, here’s some fun sea animal facts about my favorite animal, the Mantis Shrimp.
There are hundreds of different species of Mantis Shrimp and scientists know of about 550, but did you know they’re not technically shrimp? They are called Stomatopods and are closer to a crab or a lobster. They got their name because of their arms and snapping pincers that work similarly to a praying mantis insect. So, how do scientists classify the different kinds of Stomatopods? Well, by their murdering method.
Yes. Murder. The Peacock mantis shrimp can smash their prey and enemies with their quick moving dactyl clubs. In fact, they are so quick, their punch can boil the water around them, accelerating faster than a 22. Caliber bullet. That’s about 50 miles an hour. With a punch like that, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp has an impact that would shatter every bone in your hand. Some mantis shrimp spear their prey, in a harpoon like manner, with two sharp appendages on the front of their bodies. Either way is a deadly method and is strong enough to break even aquarium glass which is why you won’t likely see them there, that and it’s probably going to use its roommates as a punching bag.
So with all that power how do the shrimp attack without hurting itself? With a shell like body armor. The creature’s dactyl clubs consist of an outer coating of hydroxyapatite, a hard crystalline calcium-phosphate ceramic material. Layers of elastic polysaccharide chitin underlying the shell that are positioned in a way to act as shock absorbers, reducing the possibility of cracks and keeping the shrimp safe from its own deadly blows.
That’s not the only super power they have. The Peacock mantis shrimps vision is unparalleled. With each eye containing 12 photoreceptors that allow them to sense different types of color. For comparison, humans only have three photoreceptors meaning the shrimp can likely see colors that we cannot! Their optic abilities are on a completely separate level from ours. Scientists believe that mantis shrimp take all the visual information they see into their brains at once without processing it, allowing them to react to their surroundings as quickly as possible. Their independently roaming eyes and trinocular vision, meaning they use three points of vision, making them excellent hunters.
They can also see polarized light, something humans don’t have the capability of. Scientists have learned that mantis shrimp bounce polarized light off their bodies to communicate in a top-secret shrimp code that other species can’t decode. The Haptosquilla trispinosa species of mantis shrimp wields feathery feeding appendages called maxillipeds that are marked with iridescent, blue spots. The cells of these features reflect light in a unique way. Instead of bouncing light into a reflective structure like the polarizing cells developed by humans, the cells distribute light across the spot’s surface. The brilliant light is plainly visible to other mantis shrimp, allowing them to signal members of their species while staying hidden from predators.
An amazing animal all around, the mantis shrimp has been here since before the dinosaurs and their biology is so bizarre that scientists have assigned them the nickname "shrimp from Mars."
Stop by the library and see if you can spot our hidden Mantis Shrimp and other sea animals that may be lurking in-between the bookshelves!