Mantis Shrimp-Super Villain of the Sea

Mantis Shrimp

Aside from having poor night-vision, most humans have always felt their eyesight dangled somewhere between the top and almost the top of the chain. We are capable of seeing shades of reds, blues, greens and all the colors in between. Our eyes use something called receptive cones that allow us to see colors derived from reds, blues and greens and each color of the rainbow. We are able to see in dim light and we can see the two most common contrasts of light: black and white. The Mantis shrimp, however, a crustacean only measuring 6-12 cm long, uses 13 more color receptive cones than we humans do. This means they can see 13 colors we are incapable of seeing or even naming. This characteristic has made it a hot topic among science fans across the globe and is only one characteristic of its super-villain qualities.

Living in the Indo-Pacific Oceans, this beautiful, colorful shrimp gives off the appearance of a supermodel instead of a super-villain, with the radiant colors erupting off its body. However, unless the supermodel was a death-match fighter, beating and ripping its opponent to a bloody end, there really is no similarity.

Hiding in rock formations or burrowing in the sea bed, these aggressive crustaceans are known as the most “creatively violent” creatures on earth. Packing a 50 mph punch, these beautiful monsters use their two front appendages for beating their soon-to-be-food, to a bloody pulp. Imagine if you will, the amount of force coming out of a .22 shotgun. As they strike their prey, their front legs, or appendages, move with such speed that the water around them boils. This is also known as supercavitation.  If the Mantis misses its prey, which is very rare, the victim can die anyway from sheer force of the shockwave. The bubbles produced by the shockwaves generate enough heat to at times reach temperatures over one thousand degrees Kelvin. Have they made super-villain status yet?

In 1975, a University of California, Berkley researcher Roy Caldwell was showing a journalist the Mantis Shrimp he was studying. They walked to the tank and gave it a tap to stir the cartoonish looking creature. When Caldwell tapped, the crustacean tapped back, causing the glass of the tank to crack open and his office to flood. Their punch is packed with so much speed, Caldwell and other scientists have not been able to capture it on video. That’s almost the same as invisibility, perhaps.

The Mantis Shrimp’s armor and clubbed arms, though quite stunning, are also extraordinary at withstanding brutal force. In its lifetime, the shrimp can strike an average of 50,000 times at the aforementioned speeds; if you were paying attention before, is the equivalent of 50,000 impacts from a .22 caliber gun. They have such a durably strong surface that an engineering team has been specifically assigned at the University of California, Riverside, to understand their composite framework. The idea of this research is to find ways to enhance military armor that is as tough, lightweight and impact-tolerant.

This undersea miscreant possesses a luminescent brilliance that is beautiful to look at; but its raw power makes it a true super-villain of the sea.

By: Amy Magness Whatley

Creatively Violent




3 Responses to "Mantis Shrimp-Super Villain of the Sea"

  1. Amy Whatley   October 8, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Fixed, and you were right. Thanks so much!!!

  2. Milton Ruiz   October 8, 2013 at 12:21 am

    I believe the term you were trying to type was supercavitation, not super activation. I bet the autocorrect got you on that one. And I agree, those animals are scary as all get-out, and “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” and all that jazz.


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