Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Mantis Shrimp

In April 1998, a shrimp by the name of Tyson punched through the quarter-inch-thick glass of his cell and attempted an escape. He was promptly caught and had to be sent to a more secure facility. Unlike his boxing counterpart, Tyson was merely 10 centimetres in length.
Mantis shrimp are well-known for their “fists of fury” – officially the fastest punch in the natural world.

Their weapons of choice are their clubs that can be retracted and folded under their head. Using a remarkable energy-storage system – much like the cocking mechanism of a gun combined with a spring – the mantis shrimp can unleash its rounded, stubby claws at a speed of 80km/h to hit its target in 0.003 seconds. This is an amazing feat given that it happens underwater, where the water puts up a significantly higher resistance compared to air. The acceleration needed to produce this awesome punch is 10,000 times the force of gravity (similar to a bullet). In simpler words, researchers could not film using high-speed cameras and needed to borrow a super high-speed camera just to see the punch happen. 

However, the surprises do not end here. Researchers soon found that each strike by the mantis shrimp not only inflicted heavy physical damage, but the sheer speed of the punch created cavitation (implosion of bubbles). Much like the pistol shrimp, this cavitation releases massive amounts of light and heat energy. This shockwave happens immediately after the punch, essentially resulting in the target receiving a deadly one-two hit combo which instantly knocks it out (or disintegrated). 

The force of the mantis shrimp’s punch can easily penetrate the hard shell of most crustaceans in the ocean, meaning no creature is safe. Mantis shrimps have also been observed beating up fish and octopi – and succeeding.

Not only does the mantis shrimp have the most powerful strike, it also has one of the most sophisticated eyes in nature and is extremely agile. This, combined with the shrimp’s cunning nature makes it the perfect hunter. It tends to ambush prey and swiftly knocks it out before it knows what hit it. If the one-hit KO fails, the mantis shrimp uses its agility to hit the foe and quickly swim away, then hit again from the other side until the foe is crushed.

Lastly, the shrimp described above is actually one type of mantis shrimp called a smasher. There is another subtype called spearer with claws modified into sharp spears that can be thrusted with the same force as the smasher’s clubs.

The only adequate metaphor to describe this awesome creature would be a Mike Tyson punching as hard as he can, in his prime, while his fist is attached to a meteor entering the atmosphere.

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