All hail the Mighty Prawn!!!


Planet Earth is inhabited by around 3 – 30 million species. Of them, 97% consists of invertebrates while the remaining 3% are vertebrates. It’s no secret that the Animal kingdom has astonishing members in it and we humans have not witnessed much of these wonders.

Well, recently I came to know about one of the most amazing creatures in the Animal Kingdom, all thanks to a friend of mine who adores this creature. When I googled about it, the image results that popped up truly took my breath away.

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This is none other than the “mighty” Peacock Mantis Shrimp. It is really unbelievable that a simple invertebrate, a crustacean, can be so amusing. Odontodactylus scyllarus, also known by the names peacock mantis shrimp, harlequin mantis shrimp, painted mantis shrimp and clown mantis shrimp, is a large mantis shrimp native to the Indo-Pacific area. The Peacock Mantis Shrimp is a marine crustacean belonging to one of the 400 species of mantis shrimps identified so far.

One of the amazing features of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp is their “exceptionally good” colour vision. We know that eyes contain millions of light sensitive receptor cells called RODS and CONES. Of these, Rods are responsible of sensing motion and light while Cones make us see colour. Humans only have three types of colour receptive cones (Red, Green and Blue). We are able to see all the other colours derived from these three basic colours.

The mantis shrimp has 16 colour receptive cones giving them colour vision even better than that of the butterfly who owns 5 different types of cones. So they own not just an extremely colourful body but also own the rights to see the world in an extremely colourful manner.

But behind this fairy- tale like beautiful exterior, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp hides darkness and pure evilness. This is why they are also called Prawn Killers or Thumb Splitters. Mantis Shrimps are “smashers”, with club shaped raptorial appendages.

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They mainly hunt down oysters, crabs, mollusks and even octopi. These two raptorial appendages can be accelerated with a velocity over 50 miles per hour (80km/h). This is the fastest recorded punch of any living animal. This acceleration is similar to that of a 22 caliber handgun (850N). The mantis shrimp repeatedly hit their prey using these appendages until the soft tissue of the prey is exposed.

The other interesting fact behind this hunting is that, due to the high velocity of movement, water boils around the appendages by the process known as Supercavitation. (During Supercavitation, cavitation bubbles are formed which are simply bubbles with a vapour cavity) When the cavitation bubbles collapse, underwater shock waves are formed which can kill the prey even if the mantis shrimp misses the target. The collapse of the cavitation bubbles can produce heat of several thousand Kelvins and emits tiny light speckles. This phenomenon is called sonoluminescence.

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No matter how much you would love to see this creature in an aquarium, you won’t, because they can break the aquarium glass with few strikes of their appendages. So aquariums usually don’t house mantis shrimps. No matter how small this creature is, there is no doubt that the Peacock Mantis Shrimp is one of the most dangerous creatures you will find out there.

It’s beautiful. It’s glamorous. It’s dangerous. It’s ferocious. And it’s just amazing how a single creature can be all this.


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