Despite the perception we may hold of sharks, mantis shrimps are one of the most terrifying predators in the ocean, writes Thomas Cronin for Inverse. This is largely due to what scientists call the mantis shrimps’ pair of powerful “raptorial appendages” that end in a series of vicious, pointed spines. The raptorial appendages contain massive muscles that can extend them to their full length in hundredths of a second, producing strike forces capable of smashing through glass walls, or instantly dismembering a crab, Cronin explains.
Though some species of mantis shrimp can be quite small, smaller than your little finger, others can be as long as your forearm, however all pack a powerful punch. These crustaceans can execute attacks so forceful, that it produces tiny bubbles in the water called cavitation bubbles, which releases additional energy onto the target.
Properly called stomatopod crustaceans, mantis shrimps appeared in the ocean about 400 million years ago and have evolved to a level where they are far removed from any other living animal. Comprised of almost 500 known species, they stay concealed in rocky and sandy burrows in shallow, marine waters in the tropics.
In addition to their powerful appendages, mantis shrimps have compound eyes—like all crustaceans—meaning that each eye has hundreds of separate facets, each of which is a single unit of the entire compound eye. Cronin explains that each eye is like three eyes squeezed into one.
Most mantis shrimps see ultraviolet light, part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is invisible to the human eye. Not only can their specialized eyes see separate colors of the electromagnetic spectrum, but it can detect the polarization of light, and see in eight colors of visible light, instead of three. “Their eyes gather all this information and pass it on to the animal’s brain, so it can decide what to attack, when to attack it, how far away it is, and what it looks like in a dozen different ways,” Cronin writes. Consequently, superpower vision and explosive predatory arms, make mantis shrimps incredibly dangerous predators.