Mantis Shrimp Are Super Weird

Image

A mantis shrimp is not actually either a mantis (insect) or a shrimp (decapod) but is, in fact, an arthropod. They are referred to in science as “stomatopods,” which as far as I can tell means “mouth-foot” (don’t ask me why… I do not know). They’re pretty much filled to the brim with wizardry and badassery.

The wizardry comes into play in their two stalked, independently moving eyes. They’ve got 16 photoreceptor pigments (humans I think have three?), twelve of which are for color sensitivity… but that’s not all. Each eye has three parts, and can perceive depth independently of the other… but that’s also not all. At least some mantis shrimp can use those other four photoreceptors to see polarized light, both linear and circular. What even does that mean? It means WIZARD VISION. It also potentially means that mantis shrimp have better vision than anything else in the animal kingdom, and a possible secret language of light in which to send each other signals. What are they up to down there on the seafloor?

Image

The badassery is derived both from their absurd good looks (that is one handsome arthropod, no?) and their incredibly powerful front legs. Like praying mantises, these guys have nearly rocket-powered striking front legs that they use to stun or kill their prey- stomatopods’ hunting appendages are so powerful that they create cavitation bubbles (spontaneous air) underwater behind their super-fast strikes. The sound you can hear from mantis shrimp hunting is not snapping from hitting their prey- it’s the collapsing air pockets that then exert further force on the hapless, stunned, or killed little edibles. Mantis shrimp are divided into “spearers” and “smashers”- some spear their prey (or invading fingers) with lightning-fast stabby motions, and some use club-shaped elbows to smash open shells or knock out prey (or fingers). Their name in German, “fangschreckenkrebse,” translates to “scary-claw crab.” Fairly accurate… at least as accurate as mantis shrimp.

Moral of the story: Mantis shrimp are super weird and crazy awesome. But keep your hands clear- their wizard vision and rocket-claws will help them mess your fingers right up. 

Advertisements

3 comments on “Mantis Shrimp Are Super Weird

  1. Colleen Cowdery's Mom says:

    I love mantis shrimp and your photos are awesome

  2. Camille says:

    Nature is amazing; biomimicry holds so much promise; and it gives one pause to think of the potential military/surveillance inventions based on biomimicry of the mantis shrimp’s “wizard vision,” “badassery,” “fangschreckenkrebse,” and “spontaneous air.” (BTW: these are all terms/words I intend to work into conversation over the next week. Such a delicious challenge.)

    Doesn’t the stomatopod nomenclature refer to having gilled appendages?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s