What Six-Inch Creature Is Stronger Than an Airplane?

Written by on April 28, 2014 in Marine Life

What lives in the ocean, is only six inches long, and is stronger than an airplane?

Mantis shrimp.

Mantis shrimp. Photo credit: PacificKlaus via photopin cc.

The peacock mantis shrimp.

Before we explain, here’s a little background on this wild creature: The mantis shrimp is not actually a mantis or a shrimp, but is actually in its own crustacean group and it has some pretty amazing features.

Mantis shrimp have the most complex visual system that we know of. They have 12 color-receptive cones (compared to the three that humans have), which means that their world looks much different than ours. (Theoretically, that means they should be able to distinguish different colors much better than humans, but a study from earlier this year found that isn’t the case.) In addition to the light we can see, they can also see UV, infrared and polarized light and they can move each eye independently.

Mantis shrimp are also known for their unique hunting method. The smashers use an enlarged arm, called the raptorial appendage, to punch their prey. They have the fastest punch in the animal kingdom–it’s so fast that it creates cavitation bubbles which can injure, stun or kill the prey even if it isn’t directly hit by the raptorial appendage.

Those enlarged arms with fist-like clubs were the inspiration behind the design for composite materials that are tougher and more impact resistant than the standards currently used in airplanes.

The peacock mantis shrimp reaches only four to six inches in length and has a club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. A team of researchers led by University of California, Riverside, studied this particular mantis shrimp’s club because it can strike prey thousands of times without breaking. The researchers designed a material that mimicked the structure of the club and found that it performed very well under testing compared to the structures used today.

To see these guys in action, check out this video of mantis shrimp at UC Riverside:

To learn more:

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Elayne says:

    Nice article about the mantis shrimp, the technicolored ninja! Radiolab have a podcast about colors and it features this amazing little crustacean. It’s worth checking out: http://www.radiolab.org/story/211119-colors/