Mantis Shrimp Classification
Species: 451 different species
Mantis Shrimp Description
Mantis shrimp are an extremely fascinating group of shrimp species. They are true predators, and take nutrition from tiny organisms or scavenge on dead organisms. The mantis shrimps have modified their forelimbs to shaft or stun their prey. Based on their features, mantis shrimps are divided into subgroups.
The forelimbs are used as clubs by “smashers”. They can create forces unequaled in the animal world due to the massive power behind their modified forelimbs. The club can reach speeds of nearly 50 mph in a fraction of a second and over 1,500 newtons force created by this, which is similar to a 340-pound object falling directly onto the prey.
But, a sonic wave is also created by the acceleration of the club that smashes into the prey after the actual club and can cripple much larger prey. Comparatively, the sharp points on their limbs are used by “Spearers” that help them to impale small fish and other prey.
The speed and precision of the strike of Spearers are amazing. Unlike Smashers, the habitat of Spearers includes soft substrates such as sand. They wait for a fish to swim by and impale it at lightning speed.
The coloration of most mantis shrimp is very beautiful and striking, which helps them in communication and camouflage. The color of some species is very dark that helps them in blending with the seafloor.
The peacock mantis shrimp is very bright colored that helps it to scare off any predator. If the camouflage doesn’t work, many potential predators get injured or scared by their powerful strike.
Fun Facts About Mantis Shrimp
The mantis shrimp is not cool enough, but there are many interesting biological concepts related to these organisms. Let’s take a closer look.
i. Hunting Adaptations
We can see the adaptations made by crustaceans by the two different types of mantis shrimps- Smashers and Spearers. However, both types were evolved from a common ancestor nearly 200 million years ago, but the use of front limbs is quite different in both.
The direct force is used by the Smashers by their mantis-like front legs to strike their prey, on the other hand, Spearers modified their front legs into sharp barbs to impale and capture prey.
The prey is also different in both groups. Spearers usually prey upon soft, fleshy fish, while Smashers eat other crustaceans, snails, and oysters. The shells of these animals can be broken apart from their club-like limbs so they can get the nutrients inside.
Maybe the process of speciation in this group started by the difference in usage and prey type, which may have been the driving factor. Today, mantis shrimp represents 450 different species found in coastal regions all over the world.
ii. Compound Eyes
To become an incredible predator, mantis shrimps made another adaptation besides their weapon-like appendages. Like many arthropods, mantis shrimps consist of compound eyes. The function of these eyes is similar to human eyes, though the construction is very different.
The receptor cells of these eyes are right at the surface, instead of a single lens that funnels light onto a retina. The eyes of mantis shrimp are considered the most complex and functional eyes of any animal.
In humans, different colors and wavelengths of light can be detected by 3 types of cells, mantis shrimp have up to 16 different types of cells in their eyes. Due to this, several wavelengths that are far beyond human perception can be seen by mantis shrimp.
It can also detect both infrared and ultraviolet light, which cannot be seen by humans. It also provides a clue about the bright colors of mantis shrimp.
iii. Coloration as Communication
The coloration of many organisms helps them in communication. For instance, many insects including bees display “warning coloration”, which is recognized as dangerous by other animals. Similarly, peacocks and other animals use colorful coloration to attract mates.
Over time, females select more colorful mates, which leads to the birth of very colorful males and females. Mantis shrimp seem to be using a little of both. They use bright coloration to warn their potential predators.
However, according to some researches, mantis shrimps use bright coloration to attract mates and communicate with other members. Some species signal to their mates and other shrimp invading their space by using fluorescence.
The mantis shrimp can see patterns and colors of light, which is not visible to the human eye due to their amazing compound eyes. However, the exact mechanism and process of communication via colorful signals is not fully understood.
The reason behind this is the need for complex scientific instruments to measure what light is displayed by the mantis shrimp and how they process light signals.
Mantis Shrimp Citations