Mantis shrimp by James Van Den Broek via Flickr
Mantis shrimp by James Van Den Broek via Flickr

We bet you didn’t know that the Mantis shrimp was one of the most badass sea creatures on this planet.

Honestly, this is no exaggeration.  You might have seen them diving before in tropical areas like Indonesia, as they sneakily pop their head out from their burrow or dart across the sandy ocean floor. While Mantis shrimp look like they’ve been dipped in a rainbow (rivalling this squat lobster for the most beautiful crustacean award), they have some seriously dark and sinister adaptations.

They’re the ultimate predator

There are over 450 species of Mantis shrimp, and every one of these aggressive little guys is classified as either a ‘spearer’ or a ‘smasher’. Both kinds of tiny undersea hunter use a raptorial claw to take down their prey. A spearers’ claw is lined with rows of tiny sharp points, and Mantis shrimp who fall into the spearing category impale their dinner using this. Smashers do pretty much what the name suggests, and use their claw like a caveman would, clubbing their lunch to death. Delivering a punch underwater is no mean feat, and the impact that is delivered by these claws is similar to the acceleration of a .22 calibre bullet. Check out the video below and you’ll see exactly what that sounds like.

… Yet they stick with their partner for the long haul

They might be brutal killing machines, but they have big hearts when it comes to relationships. Some species of Mantis shrimp remain with the same partner for more than 20 years! They live happily together in their sandy burrow, spearing and hammering their prey as a colourful killing duo. Mantis shrimp have even been known to communicate with each other through fluorescent patterns on their bodies.

They have the best set of peepers in the world

Close up of a Mantis shrimps eyes by Bob Wharton
Close up of a Mantis shrimps eyes by Bob Wharton

Humans have 3 colour receptive cones.Think about the variety of different hues we see on a daily basis with this measly amount. The Mantis shrimp has sixteen cones of colour reception. We can only imagine the way the Mantis shrimp sees the world, but if their appearance is anything to go by it must be an explosion of colour. Their eyes are another tool that enable them to be one of the most supreme underwater hunters. The Mantis shrimps eyes are positioned on stalks and can move independently of each other, enabling them to track prey more efficiently. Scientists are even using the Mantis shrimps incredible eyes to detect cancer. Their highly sensitive eyes can see polarised light that we cannot, and this natural technology is being utilised to detect cancer by converting the invisible messages produced by the light into colours we can pick up on.

Mantis shrimp have some serious strength

The Mantis shrimp is not afraid to take on prey far larger than itself, and they more often that not win these battles. They’ve even been known to smash straight through an aquarium tank using their own brute force and claw.

They look like the offspring of a peacock and a praying mantis

Ok, so this might one might not be based on scientific evidence (although see our proof below). The insane colours and slightly sassy attitude that only peacocks and feisty mantis shrimp seem to possess, combined with their insect-like body structure make this crustacean the dead ringer of a peacock/praying mantis hybrid. The Mantis shrimp actually gained its name from it’s resemblance to a praying mantis and shrimp and the particular species pictured is called the ‘peacock mantis shrimp’.

mantisshrimp

Fancy seeing a Mantis shrimp in the flesh now you’ve heard how incredible they are? Mantis shrimp live in warmer tropical waters. They are great to spot muck diving, as they live in sandy holes, sprinting out of their homes to chase a tasty snack.  The best places to spot them underwater is on a night dive in Raja Ampat or at another fantastic Indonesian dive destination, or while doing some diving in the Philippines. In these areas the water temperature and coral reefs are a perfect place for them to live out their long lives, pillaging and plundering the ocean floor like a sassy little whirlwind of multi-coloured doom.

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