Saturday, June 11, 2011

In Which Adam Discusses Mantis Shrimp & Introduces the Blog

Well, hello to everyone who might be reading this! This is my fancypants new blog-thing, in which I shall discuss science, art, and whatever I find that catches my attention.
For today, I think I have a good starting point. I shall discuss my super-favorite animal, the Mantis Shrimp.

Just look at how pretty this fellow is! This particular one is the Peacock Mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus), though there are around 400 or so different species in total, in a variety of colors and flavors, ranging from greens to browns to translucent to zebra striped! Crazy, no?

Mantis Shrimp, or Stomatopods as they are otherwise called, are found all over the ocean in the South Pacific, where they live in sand and rock burrows, and are often found by accident, which leads to their rather sadly derogatory nickname in said parts: Thumbsplitters. (Ouch)
"Mmmmmmm. Thumbs." (Nom)
Yes, Stomatopods are rather well known for their monstrously fast claws, which they normally use to bludgeon or spear their prey, but in other circumstances can badly mangle some unwary diver's hands. Yep. But what's neat about these claws is the sheer speed they can reach, moving at over 51 miles per hour from a starting position, and with acceleration comparable to to that of a bullet. These small creatures can quite easily smash the shells of crabs, rocks, and glass tanks (if you want to get one as a pet, make sure you have an acrylic tank, not glass. This is important!)

But alas! There are circumstances where people may take their cruel vengeance upon these creatures, for it is not unheard of for people to eat mantis shrimp in some asian countries. (I will admit, I would totally try some if given the opportunity. Don't judge me.)
Mantis Shrimp Sashimi. Okay, okay, that does look super-tasty.
Photo courtesy of
But yes.

Also neat about the Mantis Shrimp is their eyesight. Each eye of the mantis shrimp is divided into 3 segments by specialized receptive cells, with each segment containing 16 types of photoreceptive pigment. All in all, this allows each of the independently mobile eyes to possess depth perception, and the capacity to view polarized light and light outside of the normal color spectrum that we are capable of seeing. Mantis shrimp as a whole are capable of seeing the widest spectrum of vision out of any animal, which to me frankly is just really cool.

I seeeeee you.

But what's sad about these creatures is the bad reputation they have among fish owners. Mantis Shrimp are often capable of sneaking aboard unknowing fish owners' tanks inside of the coral, where they will promptly dispose of the tanks' fish at night, and are notoriously hard to get rid of. What's upsetting about this is that aquarium enthusiasts will discount the mantis shrimp's potential as pets in their own right, when in actuality the creatures are quite hardy, intelligent and in general just lovely to look at.

I want one, in any case.

For more information on mantis shrimp, check out the Lurker's Guide to Stomatopods, here:

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