05/12/2013 12:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Amazing Mantis Shrimp

Creative Commons

No matter what your beliefs are, whether there is or is not a god, everyone agrees that some of the animals on this planet are beyond amazing. They are all unique in their own way. Giraffes have extremely long necks; meanwhile cheetahs can run unbelievably fast. I used to not know what my favorite animal was, but now I know for sure. There is a type of marine crustacean, same category as crabs, lobsters, etc., known as a mantis shrimp. I will explain, in great detail, why the mantis shrimp is the greatest creature on this planet.

According to Wired, the mantis shrimp mostly lives in shallow, tropical and sub-tropical water areas, meaning that they live along the equator and in warm climates such as Africa or even southern America. The mantis shrimps lineage can be traced back 500 million years, before vertebrates even existed. Not only is the mantis shrimp beautiful to look at because of the array of colors making up its shell, but their vision is also amazing. Humans only have three color receptive "rods" in our eyes that allow us to see all the color we see: red, green, and blue. Butterflies are said to have five color-receptive rods, meaning that they see red, green, blue, and two other colors our eyes can't even comprehend. Wired continues to explain how the mantis shrimp are said to not have three, or even five color receptive rods. Mantis shrimp have 16 color receptive rods, which means they see red, green, blue, and 13 colors our eyes can't even process. On top of this, the mantis shrimp receives photons in a way that is rarely seen in nature, which is called circular polarized light. This form of vision turns twisted, parallel waves of light that the human eye can't see and turns it into understandable, up-and-down wavelengths. This type of vision (CPL for short) is what quarter-wave plates do inside CD and DVD players, which is to convert the polarized light signals to the player. They see the world in an entirely different way than any other creature on this planet.

While the mantis shrimp is pretty to look at, and it sees everything in colorful ways we can't even imagine, that doesn't mean it's a nice animal. Some names given to the mantis shrimp are "sea locusts," "prawn killers," and now more known as "thumb splitters" because of the damage that the animal can cause if handled incautiously. If you are wondering, "Well, if this animal is so amazing, how come I haven't seen it in aquariums?" That is because not only do mantis shrimp slaughter all other animals it is with, but, according to an ABC news article, it has also been known to crack, and even break, aquarium glass. The mantis shrimp has two raptorial appendages on the front of its body that act as its "clubs." These clubs accelerate with the same velocity as a bullet leaving a twenty-two-caliber rifle. In less than three-thousandths of a second, the mantis shrimp can strike prey with about 1,500 newtons of force. That number made no sense to me at first too, but here's some perspective on 1,500 newtons of force. If the human arm could accelerate with one-tenth of that speed (150 newtons), we would be able to throw a baseball into orbit.

If you thought that the mantis shrimp was cool enough, it's not done yet. These appendages move so quickly that, according to the same LA Times article, water momentarily boils around them, in a process known as supercavitation. When these bubbles collapse, a small underwater shockwave occurs that will kill or stun the mantis shrimps prey if they did not kill it first. The mantis shrimps preferred form of killing is dismemberment. It bashes other animals to death, especially animals like crabs, clams, and octopi until their juices begin to leak out for the mantis shrimps consumption.

The mantis shrimps shell is so tough, that scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a professor at UC Riverside, who run the lab observing the mantis shrimp according to an LA Times article, are studying its cell structure to try to create a new form of body armor for soldiers. After all this, it is obvious that the mantis shrimp is hands down one of the most amazing animals of all time, and yet it is not known at all. The mantis shrimp is only one example of how little we actually know about all of the animals on this planet, and I am sure that there are many more animals even more fascinating than the mantis shrimp waiting to be found.

I would like to thank the animator and writer of this comic on He is how I found out that the mantis shrimp even exists. His comic is extremely informative and taught me more about the mantis shrimp easier than Wikipedia using college levels terms explaining it. He is a great writer; please go check out his work.

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Photo credit: Creative Commons